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Thanksgiving is really a great big lie

Some hard to digest truths about our national holiday

With all the talk today about fake news, how to spot it, and how to think critically when it comes to assessing information, consider this a seasonal warning.

Thanksgiving is a big, so-fat-you-have-to-undo-your pants, lie.

The Thanksgiving stories and images which fed our young minds are fairy tales crafted for political gain.

The tradition of giving thanks, of course, has to be considered fundamental and universal, also largely pietistic.

Most cultures have always celebrated good fortune, one way or another.

Canada can’t help feeling the breezes from south of the border. Our images of Thanksgiving, to say nothing of a whole lot of other shams, are this way.

Days of thanksgiving, “down there,” were celebrated in various forms, and in different colonies at different times, beginning as early as the seventeenth century.

But it wasn’t until 1863, during the American Civil War, that Abraham Lincoln declared a National Day of Thanksgiving, to be held each year in November. Its unfulfilled purpose? Promoting unity.

Later Franklin Roosevelt tried to move the day, in order to better encourage retail sales during the depression. The name Franksgiving was coined.

Deeply moving.

This much is documented. Approximately 100 people left England on the Mayflower in 1620, seeking – of all absurdities – religious freedom. Approximately half of them survived the voyage and the first winter. They were aided by Indigenous peoples, who helped them adapt, for example by teaching them to tap for maple syrup and grow corn.

This kindness was repaid in disease, weapons of mass destruction, and eventually colonization.

For at least the past 50 years Indigenous peoples of New England have marked that country’s Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of the eleventh month, with a protest named “The National Day of Mourning.”

Our nation’s Thanksgiving history is kinder and gentler. Of course.

According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, the first Thanksgiving celebrated by Europeans here occurred in 1578, when Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew arrived safely in what is now Nunavut. They gave thanks for their survival by dining on salt beef, biscuits and mushy peas.

Various regions thereafter recognized days of thanksgiving, generally associated with harvest and the church. In 1872, after Confederation, Thanksgiving was declared a civic holiday and it was held April 5.

This first official Thanksgiving was offered in gratitude for the recovery of the Edward, Prince of Wales, after an illness.

We were such a suck-up colony.

Parliament annually, and occasionally arbitrarily, set the date for Thanksgiving each year. For several years it was held on November 11, to coincide with Armistice Day. In 1931 that changed in order to rightly put the focus solely on veterans.

You know? Perhaps it makes more sense to be thankful for the good things in life 365 days out of the year.

Andrea DeMeer

About the Author: Andrea DeMeer

Andrea is the publisher of the Similkameen Spotlight.
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