I enjoy cooking all the food for this week’s holiday. I love roasting a turkey, boiling and mashing potatoes, steaming veggies, making cranberry sauce, and baking pies. I even like the two-day process of preparing stuffing following my gramma's recipe. I don't enjoy calling it Thanksgiving. The holiday attached to that title is built on a mountain of lies and celebrates colonialism and genocide. Not inspiration for gratitude to me.
Since I realized what I was taught about thanksgiving in school was a lie, I've been trying different ways to morph my default November feasting into anti-colonialist mode. I have listened to land acknowledgments before dinner. Included traditional dishes with local ingredients in the menu. Spent the month of November consuming content about native history and googled what local tribes are up to in modern times.
The last few years I experimented with calling it Harvest. The timing is seasonally appropriate, with all the leaves turning pretty fall colors, pumpkin spices flying around and getting on everything, and all the other autumnal vibes. But Harvest still felt like a misnomer because most of what ends up on the table comes from the grocery store. I wasn’t cooking bounty harvested from my garden; I was preparing dishes I don’t cook often because they take a long time to put together.
It’s nice to have a nationally sanctioned excuse to spend what would otherwise be a workday gathering with friends and family to eat foods we don’t cook every day. So this year I decided to call it what it is: Feast. And I decided to use it as an excuse to talk about the detriments of colonialism still present in modern life. I also learned about two other alternate names for this long-standing holiday: Truthsgiving and Takesgiving.
What I really appreciate about these alternate titles is they include acknowledgment of the roots of Thanksgiving as well as the impact of that history on all of us today. They also offer an opportunity to examine how we celebrate and consider whether we would like to do that differently. For example: many people feel obligated to spend the day with relatives, whether they would like to gather with those people or not. If the whole tradition is made up anyway (and based on lies), that's all the permission you need to scrap the problematic parts and craft something more meaningful and fulfilling.
My favorite way to feast is with the group of friends who have gradually become my holiday family. I also like to invite all the strays and orphans to join us. Any coworker or friend or neighbor who is new in town or can't travel home to be with their people is welcome at our table. I spend three days cooking and baking and I enjoy pouring the time and care into food craft that I am too busy working to do on a regular week. We eat delicious food, we play games, we share stories and laughter, and commiserate over how much capitalism sucks. It's utterly delightful.
I want the November holiday to be a feast of truth and knowledge as much as a feast of food. I want to contribute to decolonizing my own worldview and as much of the world around me as I can. Fortunately we live in an age where information and historical accounts are extremely accessible. Unfortunately we also live in an age where misinformation is prevalent and powerful interests actively attempt to erase certain kinds of history. I am extremely grateful for all the Black, indigenous, queer and other historians of color who continue to tell the stories ignored by the whitewashed textbooks I read in school. Thanks to their efforts a more complete accounting of our past is available to peruse. All we have to do is look for it.
Information and Inspiration
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.