At this point, I think it’s safe to say that most of us have questioned thanksgiving celebrations in one way or another. Thanksgiving is great for bringing people together— getting together with loved ones and family you may not see often. It creates an excuse to sit with and check-in with the people you love. (Though I am aware this may be something dreaded and not be a perk for some of you).

I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving with my dad for as long as I can remember. And while my memory is foggy, I do feel like I celebrated it with my mom at some recent juncture too. But I could be wrong. Either way, I’m lucky enough to enjoy getting together with my family– often gathering for a meal too, at any point in the year. This happens relatively often here for us– birthdays, random holidays, and just because. Again, I know this isn’t the case for many people, but I am lucky enough to get along pretty damn well with my family.

But the thing is, and I’m sure many of you guys would understand this, Thanksgiving is something I’ve had less and less positive feelings for. I mean, if I’m being totally honest, I’ve NEVER loved Thanksgiving as a holiday. The whole idea always seemed real off to me. I’m pretty sure growing up in an immigrant Hispanic household might be the reason for this. I mean, for ideas outside of my understanding, I could never feel secure in the idea of Thanksgiving. I mean, I could relate in the sense that the school-age lesson that pilgrims migrated to the states and my mom migrated to the states. But for me, the whole idea and story never fully lined up. I mean, I’m sure you guys know this but holidays are sort of *whatever* for me. I can take them or leave them. And as non-Christians, we never celebrated Easter (in my adult years anyway) and we finally stopped celebrating Christmas a few years ago. For me, celebrations stopped being about the holidays a long time ago. Holidays were really just a day off from work where my family and I could spend time together.

But Thanksgiving isn’t a Christian or religious holiday. It’s an American holiday. And while both my parents are immigrants, I’m technically an American. And while I am an America, I really haven’t been into celebrating it or the American focused holidays for a long time. And I know I’m not the only one stepping away from this tradition, especially with Thanksgiving or Columbus Day, or whatever other holidays.

At this point, you don’t have to live under a rock to know that much of history, especially American history, has been whitewashed. The stories many of us have been fed as young children are simply not the historical reality. And most (all?) of us know that this is certainly the case with Thanksgiving. We’re all pretty well aware that colonists coming to America to make peace and co-exist with native indigenous people is not the truth and it is a naive theory at best. We know that today Thanksgiving is not a day for celebration for the indigenous tribes of North America, but rather a day of mourning. And the reality is that whether you decide to face this reality or completely avoid it, the history is uncomfortable.

I know it is for me anyway.

That alone is reason enough to question the traditions we’ve practiced over the years.

The story of groups coming onto indigenous lands and stealing what they’d like is not new for us. This has happened throughout history and continues to happen throughout the world, in one way or another. It’s tough because most of us did not contribute to a past history of robbery and massacre.  And sitting down with your family to celebrate a meal together taking a moment of gratitude is never a terrible thing. But the reality is, that whether we acknowledge it or not, all our choices DO make a very big difference in the lives of indigenous and migrant people TODAY. How we spend our day of thankfulness and celebration (or don’t) will directly affect someone else. Because even today, in a modern world, indigenous groups are being affected by our everyday and seemingly irrelevant choices.

I want to remind you guys that every piece of food you choose to serve at your Thanksgiving table (or any table) will literally serve you, other people, and the planet OR it will harm you, other people, and the planet. We have a choice to turn a blind eye and carry on with actions because they’ve become habits (traditions) or we have a choice to break our habits to step into the future as a more aware and conscious group of people. Today, on Thanksgiving, and every day.

Maybe idealistic (that’s me), but maybe this year, while gathering together, we can opt to not purchase items that harm. We can choose items that serve the planet and the earth for our Thanksgiving meal. Or maybe, instead of worrying about our emotional connections to food, we can create new traditions altogether. (again, idealistic, but I can’t escape my idealist brain and ideas).

So I just want to remind you guys (or maybe let you know, if you weren’t aware) that choosing to spend money on animal agricultural products almost always* supports deforestation. Deforestation is obviously devastating for a lot of reasons. It’s terrible for the planet and is wiping out endangered species daily. But more than that, buying animal agricultural products also supports a system that directly steals from native, indigenous, and ancestral lands today. Doesn’t this go against the original concept of Thanksgiving? Choosing to support animal agriculture today doesn’t move us forward, it sets us back to the ignorance that existed of the original massacres by settlers onto the native people. Not to mention, other than habit, there is literally zero reason or NEED to participate in buying these products

Maybe this year you can choose to not support this animal agriculture practice. You can choose products that do not contribute to deforestation. Or you can opt-out of the practice of Thanksgiving altogether if that aligns best with your goals right now.

While the connection may not be glaringly obvious, many of the original people of the Americas are alive and well today. Many of them are farmworkers that spend countless hours in the field growing, harvesting, and distributing the very food that will sit on our tables. They spend countless hours, away from their families, many working with deadly poisonous chemicals or in dangerous animal factory farms, so that food can be ready for our easy purchase and use at our local stores and restaurants.

Maybe this year we can choose to put any effort into supporting companies that practice fair-trade standards, avoid toxic and harmful chemicals, and do not practice modern-day slave labor. Every single dollar we spend is a vote for the practice we want to support.

Being perfect in the modern world is impossible. I know that while I try my best, I myself am far from being perfect. We don’t need to strive to be perfect, but we should strive to be aware of and change and grow as we learn. You can choose to do your best today, tomorrow and certainly in this upcoming holiday season.

I know this is a hard truth to read. Nobody likes to come face to face with a hard truth when they’re not ready. Like most people on the planet, I have my own emotional attachments to ideas, foods, and habits too. I’m not here wanting to make things feel uncomfortable or make anyone feel guilty. Trust me, the internet isn’t a kind place when people feel that way, haha. But the reality is that some times hard truths are there to remind us of the growth we are capable of. We’re all able to do better, myself included.

Again, I certainly don’t want to put anyone’s ideas or traditions or culture down. But I want to send out a gentle reminder that it’s absolutely okay to change or let go of the traditions (or chains) that no longer serve us. That we are not responsible to hold on to traditions that are not beneficial for us, our people, and our planet. Every day we have the opportunity to wake up and support the world we want to live in. I think this coming THANKSgiving season is a great time to give thanks for the planet and the people on it, not just in theory, but in practice.

I know I’m an always striving idealist. And I know this isn’t an easy topic, but I’m hoping this sparks a light in some at least <3  I’m thankful for you guys today and every day.

You can’t change the past, but you can choose your actions today for the world you want to live in tomorrow <3

 

*Both the raising of animals and the raising of feed to feed animals for consumption utilizes amazonian + indigenous tribal land that is being intentionally burned and destroyed for farming. The Amazon is being set aflame to raise livestock for consumption as well as to grow and harvest crops to feed animals, not people.  Is it possible to eat products stemming from animal agriculture and avoid the destruction of rainforest land? Yes, if you are raising the animals yourself and feeding the animals they’re natural diet. (Even farmed fish are fed soy these days.) Or could you buy from a friend or farmer who utilizes natural processes of raising animals? Yeah, you can. But let’s be honest, most don’t. Almost all animal agriculture is destructive to the planet in some way. And obviously destructive for the animals that are unnecessarily killed.  

 

27 Comments

  1. I think you’re taking it too seriously. While all those things are true historically and otherwise, it’s a wonderful tradition of family, friends who are like family, and thankfulness. While it may have started out badly, it has evolved and changed over the years. The Thanksgiving you’re thinking of is long gone. It has since evolved into something kinda beautiful. What could be better than good food with family and friends? What could be better than being grateful? I think sometimes a holiday or get- together is whatever meaning you give to it. That’s just my two cents though and I think you make some good points:)

    – Laurali Star

    • the post isn’t so much about the past tragedies as it is about the actions (habits) we choose to make today, everyday, and for this thanksgiving. to make sure that the choices we make are for a world we want to live in and one that supports indigenous folks today and tomorrow. as mentioned, it’s great to have an excuse to get together with family. i’m excited to see my little brother coming to town, but i know i’m going to do my personal best to make sure my actions and the food i put on my family’s table are for good of everyone, not just me 🙂

    • I choose not to have children, as it seemed to me there’s more than enough ppl on this planet and yes I eat meat. You don’t eat meat but you had a kid. Let’s just call our “footprint” even, shelf the preachin’ and call it a day.

      • Haha, touche. I guess the only thing you’re forgetting to mention/notice is that I had an unplanned pregnancy ten years ago but have since decided that while we’d really, really like to experience a pregnancy/birth/and baby-raising together, we’ve since chosen, like you, that there are enough people and so it’s better not to. Know better, do better, right? Like eating for the planet… at one point I lived off fried chicken and pizza, but I have since learned better, and now I do better. Now, I’m in no way telling you not to eat meat. And I certainly didn’t tell people they need to stop eating meat… I just sent out a bit of info for the people who might not be aware of the damage that meat-eating causes on the environment and other people. You (or others) not eating meat is 100% up to them. It’s your prerogative to determine if you feel comfortable with your choices or if you want to move forward. Legit, if you feel satisfied with the choices you’re making today, well, I think thats awesome– we all need to strive for that. Thank you for choosing to not bring another kid onto the planet 🙂

  2. I love that you talk about things that you don’t see often on internet world (or I don’t see it often at least) . I’m just curious and I know you’ve talked about it on your blog before when she was younger but what does Marlow think about this? As Muslim-Americans, we don’t celebrate Christmas/Easter (though we always have friends hosting Thanksgiving so are mostly okay with that though your post is going to make me think over it more), and my girl (8 yo) has a hard time with how much everyone in school is always talking about Christmas & Santa and all of the celebrations. She is finally okay with it in the sense that doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas as such but I think she just feels left out at school since around this time of the year that is what everyone talks about. So yeah I’m curious how Marlow is taking it right now being in school and such & how you handle it. I guess at this age and during school, the need to fit in is real even for the kids raised in an environment that celebrates being different.

    • No, that makes sense. Like I said, I do think you make some valid points and it’s good to get people to think about things. I just think sometimes, as humans, and I include myself in this, we overthink things. Sometimes, a holiday is just a holiday, you know. Holidays are fun and I do agree that we need to be both thankful for what we have, as well as smart and eco-friendly too 🙂

    • thank you! it’s not always fun to talk about these things. and not always we’ll received. people don’t like to hear hard truths that they weren’t ready for, it can lead to lash back. but i feel like it’s important to bring these up for the people who might not be aware of them and also striving to grow 🙂

      marlowe has always been super adaptable. ive always made it a point to be very honest with her— to give her reasons to our actions so she can understand. i think having friends who also don’t celebrate christmas help. and since we don’t focus on material things anyway, shes not really bummed about presents… or lack of them. so many other parts of her life have joy. we still get together with family, enjoy christmas lights around town, etc. so it’s cool. we’ll see if it’s any different with her being in school this year, but i really doubt it. half the kids in her school have closets bigger than our home… she’s already well aware that people live very different lives around the world <3
      self growth and happiness first 🙂

        • hi lady, not sure where the confusion happened— there was no comment to you about lashing out! maybe another comment to someone else? we’re good! i respect your differing opinion!

  3. I also use Thanksgiving as a teaching opportunity for my children. This is a great time to talk about real history. Not a hunky dory version of pilgrims and Native Americans eating turkey at a big table together. I let them know we have a special dinner with our family and friends so we can spend time together and recognize how much in our lives we do have to be thankful for. But age appropriately, we discuss what really happened in history and each year as the kids get older can have a lot more discussions on history, the impact today and what we can do now to change or help our views/behaviors. This applies to other questionable holidays such as Columbus Day.

    • yes! marlowe has some serious qualms with Columbus. we’ll def still get together with our family for thanksgiving and maybe for christmas too, but we certainly will try our best to do better than each year before 🙂

  4. Just wanted to point out that shopping at ikea directly leads to deforestation and is contributing to earth’s decline. The wood harvested in ikea’s furniture is done overseas, by illegal measures in order to bring others cheap furniture.

    • hi there! i could be wrong (again, i’m not perfect) but i was under the impression that ikeas wood was fsc certified. i know i researched a bit before our purchases and was happy to find our recycled chairs, etc. but i know, like anything in my life there is ALWAYS room for growth. like i said, we do our best each day… but like you, we’re human too and not without our own flaws. but that doesn’t mean we don’t make an effort in every aspect of our lives everyday, because we do. sorry this post triggered some feelings for you, but i hope you can move past the uncomfortable feelings that made you feel the need to comment on a piece (two really) of furniture we bought and you too can do your best this holiday season (and everyday) with us. i’m sure neither of our family meals will be perfect, but we can try together, right? 🙂 i’ll make sure to research ikea further 🙂

      • I didn’t feel triggered by your post. I’m actually a long time follower of your blog. Given all that you constantly preach on here, I was a little surprised that you bought anything from ikea. This recent post, in which you were particularly preachy, I just wanted to point out that there are more ways to be kind to the environment than diet or choosing not to celebrate holidays. Fast furniture is just as bad if not worse than fast fashion. Check out “Cheap” it’s a great book that dedicates an entire chapter to ikea. This article is helpful as well-
        http://thesustainableguy.eu/is-it-really-ikea/

        • Sorry, you found my post preachy! Definitely not my intention. Unfortunately, I feel like bringing anything to anyones attention these days will come off as preachy. I just thought it was important to address since it was recently brought to my attention that even some really earth passionate people I know had zero idea about meat consumption contributing deforestation.

          And you’re right there are a TON of ways to be more eco-friendly. That’s why I state that is impossible to be perfect in a modern world. This post was just to focus on ONE of the many areas where we can all be more mindful. Again, I’m not perfect. I’ve NEVER stated to be, but I know I do pretty damn well in this world and I try to do better each day that follows 🙂 I’ve also been meaning to write a post where you say one thing like, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and all the statements that can be countered in return to that statement, haha. There’s no winning on the internet 😉

          I’ll add the book to my booklist. Thanks!

  5. I appreciate your thoughts but have been finding a lot of issues with the preachiness on your blog and social media lately. I am vegan too and understand how much of a negative impact animal products have. Point taken. But you personally probably have more of a negative environmental impact on this planet that billions of people on this planet have, considering how often you fly:

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2019/jul/19/carbon-calculator-how-taking-one-flight-emits-as-much-as-many-people-do-in-a-year

    • Is it preachiness to spread information? Or is it preachiness to you because you already know the information and feel you’ve heard it before? Because the reality is that you’re vegan (and that’s wonderful) you’ve probably done a bit of research and know how the animal agriculture system works– but I’ve personally learned that many people really have no idea how the system works. I’m glad you’re aware– I think thats awesome. But I hope you understand how I can choose to be completely superficial in an online world or I can choose to speak up and share important info. I totally understand not all people want to hear it– for a multitude of reasons, but for me, I’d rather speak up and reach the few who will hear it, become enlightened, and make the change themselves. Though, I think you’re comment is making me re-think how I go about it. Instead of syaing “gentle reminder” it might be time to change my wordage to “did you know?” because for people like you, who do know, they can carry on. And for people who didn’t know, well, now they learn something new.

      Planes: yes and no. Do I fly on planes? Yes. Do planes cause a negative impact? Yes again. But the reality is that most people don’t realize that almost every single thing on and around them or the food they’re putting inside of them has been transported– much of it on a plane. From ordering shoes online, to the chair we sit on, or the phone you’re holding, it’s all been mostly flown on a plane. So it’s not like we can start just pointing fingers at the people taking a vacation via plane and say “you’re killing the planet because of your plane ride” without acknowledging that every purchase someone makes is also being flown on a plane. And what’s worse? It’s literally material things (some needed/ some not / mostly not) being flown to and for us. So is me flying on a plane negative? Yes. I’ve made a (successful) effort to decrease my flights this year. But we absolutely have to look at our overall footprint and lifestyle when deciding what our personal impact is. Like, maybe there is some dude living totally off-grid not using any resources and mostly living a regenerative life– but he owns a small family of methane-producing, GMO eating, cows that he uses for food and leather— that dude would definitely be doing a lot better than a vegan filling their closets with material garbage, eating packaged vegan junk all day. Ya know? I’m not perfect, never claim to be. But I gotta say, if I step out and look in at my actions, I feel good knowing that I’m doing pretty damn good in my actions in this modern world.

  6. I appreciate your overall message here about being a more conscious consumer/human living on this Earth. I’m with you! I also agree that a majority of modern animal farming has serious implications for the health of the environment. However! I think you are overlooking the fact that animals are integral in sustainable agriculture systems. There are many small farmers who responsibly raise animals and actually REGENERATE soils. I personally do not choose to eat meat, but I think it’s important that people who do choose to eat meat support those kinds of farming practices because that is how systemic change will happen. Those farmers are doing good work, and a lot of love goes into what they do. I think it’s important to recognize that, and also acknowledge that many (most) people do eat meat. There are better options out there (go to a farmers market!) Maybe eating local, responsibly raised meat could be better than buying vegetables or vegan products grown across the country or world? (All types of agriculture are responsible for deforestation and other degradation of the soil/water/environment..)

    I guess the main point I am trying to make here is that your post comes across as a vilifying broad brush stroke that (almost) all animal farming is destructive and leads to deforestation (somehow specific to the Amazon?). I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. But, yes, I do agree the solution is to educate yourself and make more conscious decisions with what we choose to buy/support and better understand how our everyday choices impact both people and the environment.

    Also, this is a Thanksgiving post. I think most of the turkeys consumed come from the U.S. Granted, they are more often than not coming from factory farms that more than likely exploit immigrants/indigenous people. This is an issue separate from deforestation of the Amazon though.

    Lastly, because Thanksgiving happens to be my favorite holiday, I think it’s worth suggesting that every human on this planet can get on board with the importance of traditions and sharing food around a table (or fire or whatever). I think that is ingrained within all of us, and food is absolutely the most basic way we can connect with one another in a way that expresses love and gratitude and communion. Thanksgiving forever!!!

    • I agree there are animal agriculture farmers out there that are doing their best. I think Joel Salatin is an alright guy (ive written about him a long time ago on the blog), but I think you and I can both agree it is absolutely and completely impossible to sustain our current (and growing) meat consumption on this planet– no matter how ethically, sustainably, or whatever way we do it. It’s physically impossible. The best way to regenerate land is through natural permaculture practices, the way nature designed. There is so much data out there to show that we physically do not have space (or water) to farm animals (and their food) the way we do to sustain the (growing) population. And the government is certainly not going to do anything about our problem anytime soon. It’s up to us to admit that the system, no matter how well the farmer does it or doesn’t, is at a breaking point and causing serious damage to much of our globe– and mostly to places that can’t afford to take any more losses. I agree with you– that obviously a farmer who is making an effort (any effort) is better than a factory farm, but unfortunately, it’s just not physically possible unless they start growing their GMO crops in space to feed these animals.

      When I mentioned indigenous/immigrants growing our food, I think I should have been more specific to processing meat as well. That does take this topic to a whole another deeper level with ICE raids and such. But yeah growing food/ processing food/ plants + animals both.

      And yes, I’m glad you love thanksgiving. I don’t want people to hate it– I want people to love it, but hopefully, they will start creating new, kinder traditions for their Thanksgiving this year and every year after 🙂

  7. I really enjoy thanksgiving. It is one of few American holidays that isn’t purely focused on consumerism. Of course there is the food sales aspect of it, but I think the main focus for most people tends toward quality time spent with loved ones, gratitude, and a break from our hectic lives. I definitely agree that the (true) history of the holiday is important for everyone to learn about, but I also think there is plenty of space to re-shape our traditions in order to honor what we value now… just like the tradition of marriage isn’t all sunshine and roses…plenty of people still participate in it, but often in a way that has modernized to better correlate to our current values.

    I disagree with with your assertion that our choices are either helping OR hurting others… I understand what you are getting at, but the world is rarely that black and white. We can do our best to make the best choices available to us, but when good or bad are taken to an obsessive degree we are often hurting ourselves more than we are helping others. At least I found this was the case for myself. I’ve been working on allowing uncertainty to be okay, not judging things as right or wrong, and embracing imperfection (because no matter how hard we try that ultimately is the human condition), and my mental health has greatly improved.

    Have a nice holiday with your family no matter how you choose to celebrate/not celebrate it 🙂

    • I think you’re somewhat right about the black vs white guidelines. Personally, for me it works, because I am one of those blunt honest types of people and I can accept when I choose something as I see as wrong, without completely beating myself up. Because I know I can and will do better next time. But I do think that you’re right, for others it may be more difficult and things can feel more blurred. Next time I should throw in some more grey tones into my post 😉 Either way, however people go about deciding to live a more mindful life, black, white, greys, I’m just happy when something clicks and a new, conscious mindset begins to take place.

      Happy holidays to you too 🙂

  8. Wow I can’t even begin to respond to your feeling of Thanksgiving. I disagree and I’ll leave it at that.

    Happy Thanksgiving, a day for Americans to give thanks.

  9. Thank you!!! We’ve chosen to no longer celebrate thanksgiving. Instead we had a family thank you day earlier this month and we will continue to do that each year. My daughter is only 4 so too young to really start learning about why we won’t be participating in Thanksgiving but starting next year we will use Thanksgiving Day to learn about the truth about the colonists and Native Americans, learn about who’s land we live on, and will, in some way, contribute to a local reservation or another indigenous group.

    I know you’ve gotten some backlash for this post but I appreciate that you wrote it. When we know better we can do better.

    • A friend sent me an article that was published today with a quote that I think summed it up best: “White Americans have developed ways of interacting with Thanksgiving that revolves around white comfort, rather than the needs of kids of all races,” This is the article if you want to read it:

      https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/26/health/thanksgiving-for-kids-parents-guide-parenting-wellness-strauss/index.html

      Un-learning and re-conditioning can be REALLY hard for people– I get that. Hopefully, like you, more and more people are sharing the truth with their children to move onto better, kinder traditions 🙂

      Ps. Thanks for leaving the kind comment. I was joking with a friend (the same person who sent the article) that often times blog comments feel like yelp reviews these days– where people often forget to leave the kind words but jump on to say the negative things, haha.

      Do you have a name for your family day? I feel like that helps with the new tradition things. I want to work on something good with Marlowe 🙂

      • That quote couldn’t be more true. People like to say it’s about gratitude but if that was true then why are school children STILL dressing up like pilgrims and Indians and learning about the “first thanksgiving”. If it was about gratitude then none of that would even exist. We can’t take a holiday and suddenly say it’s not harmful anymore.

        Our last name is Phillips so we just called it Phillips Family Thank You Day.

        I rarely leave comments on blogs but this one I just had to. Thank you for the article, I’m looking forward to reading it.

  10. Thank you for this post! Thanksgiving is something that I’ve been grappling with for years now. My husband is Indigenous (Canadian) and it’s been a huge uncomfortable learning curve for me as I learn the true history of colonization. I think its important to educate ourselves (and our young people) on the truth around how Thanksgiving historically came to be and also to acknowledge that the treatment of Indigenous people continues to be very problematic. I’ve found it very difficult to have this conversation with my family (who has always celebrated Thanksgiving as a time to share food with family), it’s a very uncomfortable topic, I’ve had to learn to be very respectful of where they are on their own learning curve surrounding colonization (which you do well). Thank you for having the courage to speak about this and to choose to celebrate mindfully and with question. I don’t think everyone needs to stop celebrating Thanksgiving, I know for a lot of people, like you said, it is a time of connection and joy, but I do think the acknowledgment of the truth and some self reflection/research about how our countries continue to treat Indigenous people is a healthy practise that will help us all be better for each other and the Earth. So thank you for the invitation to ask ourselves these questions.

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