Purpose Driven Holiday Part 2

So this is a complete repeat of my post last year... but I liked what it had to say so much that I wanted to share it again... BEFORE the holiday...

What is it about the story of “The First Thanksgiving” that makes it essential to be taught in virtually every grade from preschool through high school?

What is it about the story that is so seductive?

Why has it become an annual elementary school tradition to hold Thanksgiving pageants, with young children dressing up in paper-bag costumes and feather-duster headdresses and marching around the schoolyard?

Why is it seen as necessary for fake “pilgrims” and fake “Indians” (portrayed by real children, many of whom are Indian) to sit down every year to a fake feast, acting out fake scenarios and reciting fake dialogue about friendship?

And why do teachers all over the country continue (for the most part, unknowingly) to perpetuate this myth year after year after year?

Well, when you put it like that..... ummm I don't know?
Is it because as Americans we have a deep need to believe that the soil we live on and the country on which it is based was founded on integrity and cooperation?

This belief would help contradict any feelings of guilt that could haunt us when we look at our role in more recent history in dealing with other indigenous peoples in other countries. If we dare to give up the “myth” we may have to take responsibility for our actions both concerning indigenous peoples of this land as well as those brought to this land in violation of everything that makes us human.
The realization of these truths untold might crumble the foundation of what many believe is a true democracy.

Wow! I guess so... I never really thought about it.
And my guess is, most of everyone else I know hasn't really thought about it. Why on Earth would we even think to link Thanksgiving with all that emotion, history and conflict?
I mean, COME ON.... we came over, were friendly for awhile then we were not so friendly.... and now we eat turkey and watch football.... Jeeze... what's the big deal?
Unfortunately - it is a big deal, what if 400 years from now September 11th was turned into a celebratory national holiday of how Americans and Radical Islamics came together on that day in the spirit of peace, love and unity?

Apparently what we celebrate as the "first Thanksgiving" was a Harvest Celebration. The 'pilgrims' were partaking in a ritual celebration that ALL people from all cultures have celebrated from the dawn of time - A good harvest.

The Native Americans were not invited. They showed up, because they heard gun shots, thinking they 'pilgrims' were about to attack. When they saw that there was a celebration, they went to get deer and turkey to bring back in good neighborly fashion.

The 'pilgrims' were not inherently bad people (and they weren't really pilgrims at all - more like missionary settlers) .. They did not think like us. They viewed the Native Americans as 'less than human' ... animals, savages and instruments of the devil. They did not understand, nor did they try to understand them, and they were frightened of them. Kill or be killed was the name of the game.

Okay... so this 1621 meal was not the first thanksgiving.... so what was?
It was in 1623 (after a two month drought had ended) that the first recorded religious thanksgiving day occurred. This day focused more on worship than on feasting (thanking God for ending the drought).

Well, that's not so bad... why do the modern Native Americans consider Thanksgiving to be a day of mourning?
In 1637, English soldiers massacred some 700 Pequot men, women and children at Mystic Fort, burning many of them alive in their homes and shooting those who fled.
The colony of Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay Colony observed a day of thanksgiving commemorating the massacre.

By 1675, there were some 50,000 colonists in the place they had named “New England.” That year, Metacom, a son of Massasoit, one of the first whose generosity had saved the lives of the starving settlers, led a rebellion against them.

By the end of the conflict known as “King Philip’s War,” most of the Indian peoples of the Northeast region had been either completely wiped out, sold into slavery, or had fled for safety into Canada. Shortly after Metacom’s death, Plymouth Colony declared a day of thanksgiving for the English victory over the Indians.
Oh... yeah, well that is kinda bad ....How did we get a national holiday out of that?
The reason that we have so many myths associated with Thanksgiving is that it is an invented tradition. It doesn't originate in any one event.

It is based on the New England puritan Thanksgiving, which is a religious Thanksgiving, and the traditional harvest celebrations of England and maybe other ideas like commemorating the pilgrims. All of these have been gathered together and transformed into something different from the original parts.

Our contemporary mix of myth and history about the "First" Thanksgiving at Plymouth developed in the 1890s and early 1900s.
Our country was desperately trying to pull together its many diverse peoples into a common national identity. This also meant having a common national history.
This was the era of the "melting pot" theory of social progress, and public education was a major tool for social unity. It was with this in mind that the federal government declared the last Thursday in November as the legal holiday of Thanksgiving in 1898.

Since then, each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939 (approved by Congress in 1941).
Right.... so now what? What do we tell the kiddos?
I like what this guy had to say: Thanksgiving became associated with giving thanks to God for the harvests of the land. Thanksgiving has always been a time of people coming together, so thanks has also been offered for that gift of fellowship between us all.

Every last Thursday in November we now partake in one of the OLDEST and most UNIVERSAL of human celebrations, and THERE ARE MANY THANKSGIVING STORIES TO TELL.

As for Thanksgiving week at Plymouth Plantation in 1621, the friendship was guarded and not always sincere, and the peace was very soon abused. But for three days in New England's history, peace and friendship were there.

Sounds good! I can live with that.... now can we leave well enough alone?

What's wrong with the turkeys?
Wait, don't tell me... I don't want to know!!!

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