What the hell is Thanksgiving anyway? It is supposed to be a holiday that is dedicated to the history of European pilgrims coming to the shores of the New World and surviving the elements and thanking God for it in a communal meal.
Of course we also know the history of these events and that the pilgrims could not have survived without the help of the indigenous peoples and their knowledge of the terrain. So as the pilgrims thanked God for surviving they were ungracious towards their hosts and the history of the American continents bares this out as those pilgrims helped to begin a process that lead to the largest genocide and land theft in the history of humanity.
What does that mean today? Should American families cease to celebrate this holiday and the fact that they are getting a four-day weekend?
Growing up I knew Thanksgiving was about two things; football and gluttony. On Thanksgiving no one had anything to say about thanking God for living another year or for our blessings; rather it was all about stuffing our faces with turkey, mashed potatoes, cheesecakes and apple pie and watching football. In America, where families are often small or spread out across the country, or even if the family lives in the same city often does not get see one another, Thanksgiving is also a chance for families to catch up on all the gossip and see who is getting fat and who is broke.
Because of the nature of the family gatherings for this holiday it is often the only time when the entire extended family is together and so this holiday is important to a lot of people who want to see those loved ones they don’t often see. It is also a time when you can turn the clock back and all eat at the same table just like you did when you were kids; only this time you are not gong to be forced to eat your vegetables or get a whoopin if you cut up at the table.
As I do not like turkey and think that it tastes dull and bland unless it is smoked, I have usually just eaten some potatoes and the like and then went straight for the desert and I can remember one Thanksgiving as a kid where I ate two whole pies by myself. After stuffing my face I would sit down and watch football and usually fall asleep on the couch around half time and awake periodically in the second half when a big play was being made which raised the noise level in the room.
So again, what does Thanksgiving mean? To you average American it doesn’t mean shit, it has nothing to do with God, and even if you don’t wanna see your family at least you got the day off of work. It is just another bullshit holiday and a time to rest; no one is giving thanks to God to anything outside of maybe a two-minute prayer before a glutinous meal.
Is anyone thinking about the indigenous peoples on this day? Are the crimes of our American ancestors even considered on this day? Or is it just another mindless American holiday?
As Muslims we have the two Eids to celebrate as the Messenger of Allah (s) said in a hadith and those are the only two holidays I observe. I do not celebrate Thanksgiving, every few years I may stop be my grandparent’s house for a short time and eat a little bit just to make them happy, but I do not celebrate this holiday that has nothing to do with God and everything to do with over-consumption.
Richard Cohen at the Washington Post has a different take.