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.