Alternative Celebrations to Thanksgiving

Sydney Wold, Editor-in-Chief

In recent years, Thanksgiving has been widely contested. Those who have grown uneasy with the holiday cite the fabrication of its origins and the erasure of the United State’s past and current mistreatment of Native Americans. Due to this controversy, many people have developed alternatives to the traditional feast, like the holidays of Unthanksgiving, Indigineous Peoples Heritage Month, and the National Day of Mourning. 

Sean Sherman wrote in Time that the first mention of Thanksgiving was in relation to a celebratory feast after the colonists’ massacre of a Pequot village. Up until the Progressive Era (1890-1920), Thanksgiving wasn’t associated with Indigenous Americans. The story of Thanksgiving that is told today, where “pilgrims and Indians” were peaceful neighbors, was created to define “Americanism” for new immigrants. This story had entered the classroom by the end of the Progressive Era. 

Sherman has called for a reinvention of Thanksgiving. He states that “there is no need to make Thanksgiving about a false past. It is so much better when it celebrates the beauty of the present.” To this end, he has encouraged Americans from all walks of life to try Indigenous foods and recipes, learn Indigenous history, and support Native American growers. 

Others have chosen to distance themselves entirely from Thanksgiving and protest the current state of Native Americans. One of these protests, the National Day of Mourning, takes place annually in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The purpose of this protest is to acknowledge the suffering of Native Americans throughout American history. 

Unthanksgiving is a holiday that coincides with the National Day of Mourning. Unthanksgiving, also called The Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony, is an annual event that occurs on Alcatraz Island. The day is meant to celebrate the survival of Indigenous people and promote their civil rights. 

Indigenous Peoples Heritage Month, or National Native American Heritage Month, is a month-long celebration of the accomplishments, culture, and history of Native Americans. Several businesses recognize Indigenous Peoples Heritage Month and provide resources such as art, webinars, podcasts, and information about and featuring Indigenous Americans. 

Thanksgiving is a holiday that many Americans have grown distant from due to centuries of the erasing and rewriting of its roots. Some Americans have reinvented what Thanksgiving means while others have distanced themselves entirely from its traditional practices and engaged in protests.