Why celebrate Thanksgiving?

A couple of tweets – one on a Professor sipping wine at Thanksgiving and a response to that tweet. If the initial tweet was out of context the response was innocent to say the least. The response was that Thanks giving was a pagan festival in celebration of harvest and so closer to Hindu way of life.

The reality (An excerpt from the book *Lies my Teacher told me* page 68:

 The mythic origin of “the country we now know as the United States” is at Plymouth Rock, and the year is 1620. Here is a representative account from The American Tradition-.

After some exploring, the Pilgrims chose the land around Plymouth Harbor for their settlement. Unfortunately, they had arrived in December and were not prepared for the New England winter. However, they were aided by friendly Indians, who gave them food and showed them how to grow corn. When warm weather came, the colonists planted, fished, hunted, and prepared themselves for the next winter. After harvesting their first crop, they and their Indian friends celebrated the first Thanksgiving.

From Page 87:

The true history of Thanksgiving reveals embarrassing facts. The Pilgrims did not introduce the tradition; Eastern Indians had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries. Although George Washington did set aside days for national thanksgiving, our modern celebrations date back only to 1863. During the Civil War, when the Union needed all the patriotism that such an observance might muster, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday. The Pilgrims had nothing to do with it; not until the 1890s did they even get included in the tradition. For that matter, no one used the term Pilgrims until the 1870s.

The ideological meaning American history has ascribed to Thanksgiving compounds the embarrassment. The Thanksgiving legend makes Americans ethnocentric After all, if our culture has God on its side, why should we consider other cultures seriously? This ethnocentrism intensified in the middle of the last century. In Race and Manifest Destiny, Reginald Horsman has shown how the idea of “God on our side” was used to legitimate the open expression of Anglo-Saxon superiority vis-a-vis Mexicans, Native Americans, peoples of the Pacific, Jews, and even Catholics. Today, when textbooks promote this ethnocentrism with their Pilgrim stories, they leave students less able to learn from and deal with people from other cultures.On occasion, we pay a more direct cost: censorship. In 1970, for example, the Massachusetts Department of Commerce asked the Wampanoags to select a speaker to mark the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing. Frank James “was selected, but first he had to show a copy of his speech to the white people in charge of the ceremony. When they saw what he had written, they would not allow him to read it.” James had written:

Today is a time of celebrating for you . . . but it is not a time of celebrating for me. It is with heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People. . , . The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors, and stolen their corn, wheat, and beans, . . . Massasoit, the grear leader of the Wampanoag, knew these facts; yei he and his People welcomed and befriended the settlers , . , , little knowing that. . . before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoags . . . and other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by their guns or dead from diseases that we caught from them. . . . Although our way of life is almost gone and our language is almost extinct, we the Wampanoags still walk the lands of Massachusetts.. .. What has happened cannot be changed, but today we work toward a better America, a more Indian America where people and nature once again are important.

Should we the Hindus celebrate Thankgiving? is it similar to our traditions?


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