The Mixed Bag // Issue #02
Thanksgiving, and really the holidays in general, have different meanings for everyone. Some use the holiday to spend time with family and friends; some gather in defiance. Others simply want a reason to feast on comfort food. And, of course, there are those who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving at all.
The mixed cultures and traditions of our country is varied and beautiful. Old traditions and how we think about holidays rooted in muddled history, over time, evolves into blended traditions and more understood holidays. This, to us, is exciting.
To us, it is important to be aware of what happened in the past, what it means, and how the traditions and holidays have evolved over the years.
We’d be remiss to not give thanks (though we think it’s important to give thanks every day of the year). We’re thankful for many things, one of them being the ability to share not only our stories, but to provide a platform for others to share their voices.
THE FIRST THANKSGIVING
When you think of Thanksgiving, what comes to mind? This is the time of year when it’s easy to be distracted by the allure of home-cooked food, the anxiety or excitement of spending time with family and friends, televised sports and parades, and too-good-to-be-true shopping deals. But behind the golden turkey, creamed mashed potatoes, and sweet cranberries is a history that has become seemingly lesser known over the years.
Perhaps thinking about these indulgences are easier than thinking about what really happened in history. Maybe over the years, the retelling of history became too difficult to relive or share that it ultimately became a byproduct of the holiday. It’s also possible that Thanksgiving is misunderstood or has been glossed over in our history classes. This article provides an overview of where it all began.
Feasts used to look much different than the way we think of them today. In different parts of the world, feasts were how some people gained political power. When guests contributed to feasts (particularly animals), they were recorded since contributions were considered debts. Through feasts, economically based hierarchies were created. So next time your mother offers you an extra scoop of mashed potatoes, remember, she might be trying to gain political power over you!
If you’re curious what others do for Thanksgiving, this article provides an inside look at how a Korean family, Egyptian family, Taiwanese family, to name a few, spend the holiday. For many of those who immigrate to America, Thanksgiving is a time to not only partake in American tradition, but to gather with friends and family and eat traditional dishes.
“Between 1776 and the present, the United States seized some 1.5 billion acres from North America’s native peoples, an area 25 times the size of the United Kingdom.” In 1621 when the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims learn to live in and survive in their new land, the beginning of many hundreds of years of struggle for the Native Americans ensued. Claudio Saunt takes a historical approach to showing the rise and demise of the Americas the Native Americans knew. Sitting down for Thanksgiving can be a reminder of the good times, but that does not negate the fact that those good times are built on a troubled past.
From the time Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World until the year 1900, there were as many as five million Native Americans enslaved in America. In this podcast, Andrés Reséndez, a historian at the University of California Davis and the author of The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, discusses this hidden history and why many are just now learning about it.
Tommy Orange’s There There, the story of twelve characters, Urban Indians living in Oakland, California, whose stories collide throughout the story and at the Big Oakland Powwow, is an unputdownable read. The prologue is also one of the most powerful we’ve ever read.
What food will you bring to the Thanksgiving table that represents your cultural background?
Originally published in the Issue #02: November 22, 2019 newsletter, The Mixed Bag. Sign up to receive weekly newsletters and updates.