I’ve never really been a fan of holidays, not even when I was a kid. To me, it’s a day where I’m obligated to be in a certain place and eat certain foods. Even if I could to go off and do something else, all or most businesses are closed and my friends are engaged in similar obligations. It meant hanging out with family that I don’t want to see and pretend that we’re cool. As an adult, there’s less hanging out with people I can’t stand, but it’s still an entire day of obligations. And it’s always frustrated me.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve questioned the holidays themselves. Easter was probably the first just because you sort of grow out of it (in that people stop buying you candy). But Christmas was the first holiday I essentially attempted to boycott. As I am not a Christian, it made no sense to steep myself in Christian tradition. However, my family took great offense to it, not because Jesus, but because they enjoyed those traditions. Additionally, now that we have children, they are interested in Christmas trees, cookies, and presents because their friends, and yes teachers, talk about it at school. It’s been a large point of contention for me. But we acquiesced and remade, or invented a new, Christmas for our family so to keep some of the traditions but on our own terms. We no longer concern ourselves with Christmas, but instead celebrate the New Year by combining traditions of both Christmas and the New Year.
Until recently, I haven’t given Thanksgiving that much thought mostly because I could get away with just showing up for dinner or drowning myself in the James Bond marathon that runs on TV every year. But in the face of Standing Rock, I’ve begun to consider history, and I’ve found that I have no taste for the holiday tradition of Thanksgiving (not that I had much in the first place). Luckily, my first official protest of the holiday will be easy since we already live impractically far away from family to participate.
But I’ve decided to take it a step further than simply not showing up for dinner. The long weekend is an excellent opportunity to learn more about American history and share it with others. I had thought about driving to North Dakota and protesting, but it is actually more practical for myself and for the cause to just donate some of the money I would have used to get North Dakota to the Sioux tribe. And I think that makes a wonderfully appropriate new tradition: Learn about American history and all of its gruesomeness, contribute to a cause either monetarily or by volunteering. (Many people already do the second part as a part of their Thanksgiving tradition. And also don’t shop on Black Friday!)
I hope to encourage others to invent a new Thanksgiving as well. It can still be about food and family but not about pilgrims unless you want to talk about the betrayal of the white settlers to the Native American people. With Trump attacking our rights to free speech, the press, and to protest (and others), wouldn’t it be fitting to use this federal holiday to protest or to aid protesters in their fight against a growing fascist and militarized state?