In recent years, Thanksgiving has come to be one of my favorite holidays.
As a child, my favorite holiday was Christmas, naturally, with the mystery, the wonder, and, of course, the gifts (okay mainly the gifts). Since I’ve started celebrating Thanksgiving as an adult, however, the holiday has taken on new meaning for me.
There’s something so special about gathering loved ones—whether given or chosen—around a table to celebrate Thanksgiving. Kyle and I love to cook, and as we’ve also become more convicted about what we eat, making it a priority to try to eat locally and sustainably, the Thanksgiving meal has become more than a delicious feast shared with good company.
When we set our favorite dishes on the table (pumpkin risotto being one of them) and sit down for the classic American meal, we find ourselves not only grateful for the family and friends that surround us and the food on our plate—we’re grateful for the land it came from, the hands that grew it, our passions that transformed it, and this community that we’ve come to call home. We don’t always share our gratitudes out loud, but the intention in our coming together says enough: We are here, we are loved, we love, and we are grateful.
Such a pretty picture of unity, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, as my affinity for Thanksgiving has grown, my awareness of the holiday’s origins have as well. Growing up I was shown illustrations of pilgrims and Native Americans feasting happily together around a cloth-covered table on a sunny autumn day. However, no matter how brave their departure from British oppression or sincere their intent as they sought new life in the New World, I now know that the pilgrims bought, bartered, and forced their way onto this land, often either murdering or making slaves of the people who had been here all along. (I have a feeling they weren’t living by the Pilgrim Principles….)
I wish we could say this was all in the past, condemning the holiday’s origins (a feast in 1637 to celebrate the killing of 700 unarmed Pequot Indians—men, women, and children) and simply cherishing what it has become. But the voices of the marginalized don’t simply call out to us from centuries past.
To marginalize literally means to “treat a person, group, or concept as insignificant or peripheral,” and there are marginalized voices calling out to us today—those fighting for what is Sacred at Standing Rock, immigrants and refugees who were once welcomed into this land and yet now feel threatened, black lives who are still to this day fighting for the freedoms that I, as white, don’t even know I have.
Now that I know the origins of Thanksgiving and the gross marginalization that occurred centuries ago, there’s no way I can feast on Thursday and not acknowledge those who are being forced into the margins today. It’s uncomfortable, yes, and it should be. And it’s a conversation that doesn’t go well with “pass the potatoes” or a football game humming in the background while everyone fades in and out of a post-turkey nap. But it’s truth. It’s here. It’s now. And it needs to be heard and responded to.
It’s still Thanks-giving, a beautiful invitation to gather together as a community and celebrate what we’ve been given. However, I don’t want to make the same mistake my ancestors made four hundred years ago, forcing the vulnerable to the margins as I follow my own pursuits. I want to listen, I want to remember. And more than anything, I want to come alongside those on the margins in ways that I have the opportunity to now and ways that are yet to come.
The marginalized voices that are speaking out today continue to call us toward awareness and change. As Seekers of the Sacred following on the path of wholeness and love, this Thanksgiving and always, their prophetic voices—and the invitations that follow—are indeed declarations to be grateful for.
What new awarenesses and calls to action are you grateful for in this season?