Author: Soo Jin Kim
This week, I’ll be joining my roommate’s family for Thanksgiving. I’m pretty excited about it—not only am I glad that I’ll have some place to go, I’m also happy that I’ll be able to experience Thanksgiving. For an international student like myself who’s lived in Korea and Hong Kong until now, Thanksgiving (in the American style) wasn’t something we celebrated.
As a Korean, I followed the traditional festival, “chuseok,” which is like Thanksgiving. Chuseok, which falls around September, is the day when families gather and pay respect to their ancestors and get new clothes. In Hong Kong, we would gather with other families, have a big meal and go shopping.
From what I’ve heard, people have described Thanksgiving in many different ways. Someone recently told me that he felt Thanksgiving is “a joke, since we basically massacred all the Native Americans and took their turkeys.” He added, “But I still enjoy the school-free days that Thanksgiving provides, which makes me feel torn.”
Even stranger, someone else told me he felt that Thanksgiving “is a time when we can think and give thanks to Jesus, for the good food, good times and good company.” Excuse me? What about Christmas? I thought that was supposed to be the holy holiday. Isn’t that technically the day or night that Jesus was born? “Yeah, but Christmas is so commercialized now,” he shot back. OK, I get the point. Religion shapes how people feel about giving thanks.
The origin of Thanksgiving dates back to 1621, when the Pilgrims who had landed in America the year before had experienced a severe drought. By learning from the Native Americans how to grow crops, the Pilgrims were able to live. The Pilgrims then held a Thanksgiving feast as an expression of gratitude to the Native Americans. Of course, this was a long time before Native Americans were killed by the hundreds of thousands.
So while I’m wishing every reader an enjoyable Thanksgiving break, let’s not forget that it was a day when America was able to survive with the help of the Native Americans, not just a day for family members to meet and eat. After all, without the Native Americans’ help, America might not even have begun. Thanksgiving should be a day to thank the Native Americans, no matter how you handle the holiday.
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