Thanksgiving is dead. The traditional holiday as we know it, Pilgrims and Native Americans eating turkey and pumpkin pie, is dead. 2020’s pandemic, political disaster, and spotlight on entrenched systematic racism was the last straw in an already shaky origin story.
This year is the 400th anniversary of The Mayflower’s arrival in Plymouth Harbor. This milestone in America’s history has become synonymous with the American holiday of Thanksgiving. The recreation of the first Thanksgiving as a peaceful, symbolic meal between Pilgrims and Native Americans has been celebrated in school plays, children’s books, and popular culture, complete with the iconic black hat and buckled shoes.
In fact, the depiction of the first Thanksgiving as we’ve been taught is a myth and it’s as just as damaging to Native people and their history as Columbus Day. Furthermore, the myth perpetuates the idea that history for Native Americans began when Europeans arrived, when in fact Native people occupied America for thousands of years before the Pilgrims arrived.
The first Thanksgiving is a story about friendly Native Americans conceding to colonization; how convenient for the colonizers. While there was a strategic alliance, there was also much war and blood. The systematic starvation of Indigenous people by killing tens of millions of buffalo, stealing their livelihood and land (that Black people were forced to work slave labor), is the real story. It’s hundreds of years of oppression. And still.
Thanksgiving is dead. This fourth Thursday in November – especially this 2020 version when Native Americans have suffered a disproportionate number of Covid-19 cases – let’s ditch the Thanksgiving origin story and honor the day as a time of reflection, prayer, and gratitude.
I know we are all eagerly waiting for 2020 to be over and the promise of a pandemic-free 2021 to begin, but let’s be thankful for the good things that this year has brought.
I am grateful for so many things. Here are a few.
My daughter at home. She began college in the fall and while she would rather be living on campus and attending classes in person rather than online, I’m grateful that she has a room all her own, reliable wi-fi, and a supportive loving family to help her navigate this tough year.
My dog, Chili Dawg. He’s always been my favorite third child, but the calm steady reassurance of his presence has been an emotional balm for the whole family. Even my husband (after 11 years) recognizes how essential he is to our pandemic lock-down life.
My home office. Thankfully I already had a lovely space to work. Although it’s more challenging with my daughter in college across the hall (she frequently tells me to turn my music down and stop singing so loud), it’s also nice when she wanders in to tell me what she learned in her last class.
My home gym (also known as my office). I do miss my boxing class at the Y, but I already had a complete set of kettlebells, yoga mats, and enough online workouts to last me a year so I didn’t miss a beat. Regular check-ins with my long-distance exercise buddies keep me accountable and daily exercise keeps pandemic anxiety at bay.
The Southern California weather. I can be outside most days and especially as we move into colder months, that’s really nice. I am grateful for every sunny day and every gorgeous sunset.
My husband working at home. I confess that earlier in the pandemic he drove me crazy as we adjusted, but really I am grateful for this time together; it’s been good for us to slow down, connect, and recalibrate. While we’re still just as busy as we were before lock-down, we do little things like eat lunch together or catch a kiss passing each other in the hall. It’s nice.
Technology. Yes, like everyone else, I am all Zoomed out. But how wonderful to be able to still “see” family and friends, celebrate holidays and milestones, learn all sorts of new things, and attend important meetings virtually. If I have to live through a pandemic, I’m thankful it’s now.
A new president and vice president. I have never watched an election and news cycle so closely in my life. I felt like I was on disaster watch, anxiously checking the news as soon as I woke up, throughout the day, and before I went to sleep. I guess it was a disaster watch – one that is far from over – but at least I can relax now, just a little bit. An extra high five and happy dance that the vice president is my sorority sister too!
An exciting new project. Over the last several months I’ve been hard at work creating a guided mindfulness journal. It’s in production right now, but I’ve gotten a sneak peek, and let me tell you, it’s beautiful. I’m so excited to get this journal out into the world and into your hands! Follow @tapinjounal on Instagram for the latest updates and subscribe below for the Sherrelle newsletter. Good things are coming soon!
Want to learn more about the myth of the first Thanksgiving? Here’s an article in the New York Times, another one, and an article in Smithsonian Magazine.
P.S. You may also like to read a Thanksgiving story, about life, love and loss.