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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

OPINION: Thanksgiving is an important American holiday that can (and should) continue despite its dark origins

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Max Hoelker / Hilltop Views
Traditional Thanksgiving food, at its finest: steaming turkey, cranberry sauce, fresh stuffing, and mashed potatoes.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays; I gather with extended family, many of which I only see on Turkey Day. As the tradition stands today, Thanksgiving is a time for coming together and sharing an extravagant meal with loved ones. But, Thanksgiving is still controversial. People all across our country have so many opinions on our iconic November holiday. However, despite its dark and complicated origins, Thanksgiving is still an important holiday.

One of the biggest problems people have with Thanksgiving is a lack of accurate education. Many public schools still teach the age-old story of Squanto and the Wampanoag tribe gathering with the Plymouth pilgrims for the first Thanksgiving. While this story isn’t entirely false, the presentation is nefariously inaccurate; the relationship between the Wampanoag and the pilgrims is exaggerated, and the years of massacres that many groups of pilgrims perpetuated against tribes like the Pequot before declaring a “thanksgiving” are entirely left out.

Many people, especially indigenous peoples, are of the opinion that Thanksgiving should be celebrated differently, or not at all, because of this tarnished history. While I respect that opinion, I feel very differently. The history of the massacres of indigenous peoples absolutely needs to be taught in schools. Children need to know what sorts of things have happened on the land they live on. While it certainly is a grim history to acknowledge, it’s an important one, one that will hopefully teach children grace and humility as well as inform them on their country’s complicated history with Natives.

However, an acknowledgment of this history does not invalidate the holiday. For example, multiple dates have historically been used for Thanksgiving, but the holiday in its present form did not exist until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln with his 1863 Proclamation. My point is: The holiday has become something greater than its origins.

Beyond official dates, Thanksgiving in the present era is nothing like its history. In 2023, the fourth Thursday in November is a time of celebration. Families and friends assemble, sometimes for the only time all year, to give thanks for each other and their lives. Food like hearty stuffing, juicy ham, steaming turkey, sticky cranberry sauce and scrumptious mashed potatoes are staples of the holiday, some of which are consumed only on this holiday. It’s a holiday dedicated to giving thanks, something I don’t take enough time to do.

Thanksgiving is a quintessential American holiday. The U.S. is a melting pot of culture; people from all over the world come to this country and bring their traditions and culture with them. It’s one of the things that makes the U.S. beautiful. It’s the only holiday that’s exclusive to us; other countries have their independence days and their Christmases and their Halloweens. Thanksgiving is the only fully-American holiday. I don’t have a lot of connection with my German and English heritage: my culture is American. I grew up with Thanksgiving as one of the biggest holidays of the year, and it still is. Without this holiday, I would lose a meaningful piece of my culture and a time for connection with my loved ones.

Thanksgiving is no longer what it was 200, 300 years ago. Yes, it is important to educate ourselves and others about the history of what a “thanksgiving” has been and the evils that surround the holiday’s origins. And yet, in its current state, Thanksgiving is a celebration of family and food, something that does not come often in these tumultuous times. Thanksgiving is a holiday of joy that should continue to be celebrated for decades to come.

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About the Contributor
Max Hoelker, Copy Editor
Max is a sophomore English literature major with a minor in psychology. Although this is his first year with Hilltop Views, he is ecstatic to dive into writing, editing and all things in between. In his limited free time, Max loves to spend time with friends and read.

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