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Thanksgiving is one of America’s celebrated holidays, meant to vocalize our gratitude for family, friends, and anyone who deserves our thanks. The very first Thanksgiving took place in 1621, when the Mayflower pilgrims, the founders of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts had a three-day meal with the Wampanoag tribe. The Indigenous American tribes, who had already inhabited the grounds, were a huge part of their survival, although that went mostly unappreciated.
The Importance of Recognizing The Indigenous History Behind Thanksgiving
This supposed celebration went against all of the previous relationships that existed between the Pilgrims and Indigenous, the Pilgrims considering the latter heathens and unworthy of basic human rights. But the Wampanoag managed to maintain civil conversation and interaction with the Pilgrims, helping them to harvest, cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous foliage.
Many modern-day Thanksgiving celebrations remind the general public to never forget the mistreatment that the Indigenous people suffered at the hands of the colonists and still suffer from today. They honor the Indigenous contributions and recognize the harsh treatment by educating the general public about the implications of celebrating a holiday that was created in the name of genocide. The trend of decolonizing will not move forward if people refuse to acknowledge the actual history of our nation and the violence the Indigenous Americans experienced at the hands of the Pilgrims.
Quickly Growing Trend of Holiday Commercialization
Thanksgiving already has a tainted history but with the recent trends of commercialization, its good-spirited origins have been further lost. Both Christmas and Thanksgiving have been caught up in a race to make the most money and continue to bolster the wealthy American population.
It began with the first Macys Thanksgiving Day parade in 1924. The department store is now synonymous with the holiday, pushing money-making ploys like Black Friday and Cyber Monday to preserve the nation’s economic health. Friday at 7 pm is when the commercialization begins, with people lining up outside doors of outlet malls and stores in order to gain access to the early bird discounts. Some stores have even quickened their paces to a pre-Black Friday sale that starts on Thanksgiving at 10 pm.
Football, Black Friday, and The Loss of Thanksgiving’s Integrity
Some jurisdictions have been pushed to prohibit the sale from overpowering the true essence of the holiday and forcing workers to abandon their home-cooked meals and family to stand guard against the rowdy patrons. GameStop, a video game retailer, has prohibited any workers from leaving their homes to come to work, saying, “We have a phrase around here that we use a lot—it’s called ‘protecting the family.’ We want our associates to enjoy their complete holidays.”
Football spectatorship is also now intertwined with Thanksgiving, not by accident either. It was meant to reaffirm a man’s bond with other men and overpower the “ feminine sentimentality” of thanksgiving by reinforcing complacent masculine roles and enforcing a woman’s job to cook and serve on this holiday. The scheduling of football became such a conflict that TV Networks and sports managers place it at a higher importance than the actual holiday of Thanksgiving.
The Social Justice in Commercialization
Our nation requires tradition and celebration to remain connected as a social unit, but even that glue is wearing thin. Federal holidays have just become a marker of commercial activity, even days like Presidents Day and Memorial Day are being used to offer coupons and deals, overshadowing the patriotic and important meaning of the day off. Labor Day even strategically closes just in time for the Back to School sales to start.
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Retailers, who were desperate for those deals and oblivious to the cultural erasure and insensitivity that such bald commercialization was sprouting, even pushed for the holiday’s date to change. Their need for better shopping accommodations led to a historic move by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1939, amidst the Great Depression, we witnessed Franklin D. Roosevelt change the date of Thanksgiving to one week earlier in order to allow Americans the space they needed to focus on their Christmas shopping.
Will Retailers Ever Stop Trying to Taint The Holiday Season?
In a blind grab for more cash, the date was solidified as such. FDR claimed it was in order to prevent any damage to the economy that shortening the holiday shopping season could cause. He justified his decision by announcing to the Associated Press that were was nothing special nor sacred about the original date but the President failed to catch the real implications behind his decision. Once again, our country was putting monetary and economic value above the wellbeing, cultural health, and prosperity of its people. A Gallup poll recognized the frustration of the people in response to such a decision, with 59% of the American population objecting to the date-switch.
Less than two years later the plan was reversed. 1942, the date went back to its original day, and now every fourth Thursday in November we celebrate Thanksgiving.
Honoring Family and Friends Above All Else
While there have been no recent requests to change the date, the holiday shopping season is still a priority and is still thriving today. This has led many stores, as mentioned above, to remain open on Thanksgiving for the first time, increasing the spending rates.
Roosevelt was right – although his decision didn’t stick, it didn’t take long for retailers to grab Thanksgiving by the throat once again. To preserve the integrity of the holiday, all we can do is remember its origins and honor the gratitude and kindness it promotes. Perhaps change can be accomplished by focusing more on the opportunity to break bread with those we love and actively choosing not to feed into the selfish corporate greed that America oh so loves.
By Mireille Karadanaian
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Mireille Karadanaian is an entertainment journalist, whose passion for reviewing upcoming TV shows and movies has existed since a young age. She writes reviews and feature entertainment stories for The Hollywood Insider’s inclusive and authentic platform, contributing to the important stories being told in media today. Mireille loves discussing the impact today’s media is making on younger generations who emulate what they see on screen and the Internet, a double-edged sword. Her stories often include the importance of creating content that inspires inclusion, positivity, and productive messages to all audiences and generations. Mireille’s love of covering TV shows, movies, and exciting questions that are being asked in the media world is seen in her writing and her ability to not just report facts but also tell a story.