Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City | Photo via Wikimedia Creative Commons by Jazz Guy from New Jersey
There are probably only two American national holidays observed and celebrated by almost all Americans, regardless of their ethnicity, economic status, political affiliations, religious beliefs, and domicile state. They are Independence Day (4th of July) and Thanksgiving Day (last Thursday of November).
Thanksgiving Day, as we know it today, is an American creation. A creation by the first white European settlers in America. The “first” Thanksgiving celebrations, which historians say lasted for three days, is said to have taken place in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was a celebration after a great and productive harvest. It was a celebration of a new life and what was then known as the “New World.” The principal celebrants were Englishmen, whom historians called the “Pilgrims,” forced to leave their homeland, England, and everything else they had to escape religious persecution and search for a new life beyond the seas.
That” first” Thanksgiving celebration has since then been repeated every year and became a national holiday, primarily because the descendants of those “Pilgrims” and subsequent waves of white migrants from Europe became the United States of America’s principal residents.
Later, migrants from other parts of the world who were of the colored kind have adapted to the American culture and practices while maintaining their own.
“Every American, particularly those who lived in their countries of birth before coming to America, has every reason to celebrate Thanksgiving Day in America. Many of them had to leave their homeland that was torn and devastated by tribal conflicts, religious persecutions, …”
Every American, particularly those who lived in their countries of birth before coming to America, has every reason to celebrate Thanksgiving Day in America. Many of them had to leave their homeland that was torn and devastated by tribal conflicts, religious persecutions, prevalent graft and corruption in government, insurrections, dictatorial or authoritarian governments, widespread poverty, recurring natural calamities, and continuing political uncertainty. The countries collectively referred to as Indo-China were once the site of brutal internecine wars.
The Philippines had its era of oppressive martial rule, a succession of ineffective governments. At the same time, beset by the age-old communist insurgency and the secessionist rebel movement in Mindanao, in addition to the recurring typhoons that make any government efforts to improve the people’s economic situations almost insignificantly. Many immigrants from the African continent escaped repressive dictatorial governments and tribal leaders, abject poverty, and “uncivilized” cultural practices, especially victimizing women.
“With this as a reality, we expect immigration to be a continuing issue for American policymakers. Americans or former immigrants will have more reason to celebrate Thanksgiving Day if American immigration policies are more welcoming to those who are deserving.”
For varying reasons, many people decide to go to the United States, which they seek. Since human history, migration has been from an “underdeveloped,” “developing,” or “less developed” area or country to one that is better and developed. With this as a reality, we expect immigration to be a continuing issue for American policymakers. Americans or former immigrants will have more reason to celebrate Thanksgiving Day if American immigration policies are more welcoming to those who are deserving.
There is another side to Thanksgiving Day. One may call it the dark side. The Pilgrims and their descendants had reasons for having escaped religious persecution and found new lands, and a better lifestyle became migrants in this country. The people who were here before they came and were known as the United States of America were deprived of their lands, murdered, and became minorities – subjected to the rules and laws adopted and imposed upon them by the newcomers and their descendants. Later, they also became colonialists themselves.
History is replete with events and times hurtful to many. But we cannot now change history. Knowing it, we can only make sure that it does not happen again. The age of conquests and colonization have long been gone. The idea of the superiority of one race over another has long been discredited and loathed by many.
“History is replete with events and times hurtful to many. But we cannot now change history. Knowing it, we can only make sure that it does not happen again. The age of conquests and colonization have long been gone.”
We celebrate Thanksgiving Day now for the things we have and how we came this far. We observe Thanksgiving Day now as we remember those painful events that are part of who we are, our ethnic and cultural history, with a pertinent expectation that things will be better.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Manuel B. Quintal, ESQ., practices law in New York since 1989. He is active in the community as a member, an officer or a legal adviser of various professional, business, and not-for-profit organizations. He was a columnist of Newstar Philippines, an English language weekly newspaper published in New York, from 2006-2009. He was Executive Editor of International Tribune, an English language weekly newspaper for the Asian community, based in New York, from 2010 to 2012. He is admitted to practice law in the Philippines and New York State. He has graduate degrees in Political Science and an LL.M. major in International Law.