The changing meaning of Thanksgiving

The day has little to do with pilgrims anymore

Nitya Thakkar, Staff Writer

The smell of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie wafting through the house is what most people think of when they hear the word Thanksgiving.

The first Thanksgiving is celebrated as a day when Pilgrims and Native Americans came together to share their harvest — or at least that is what is taught to most kids in school. Today, to the majority of people, Thanksgiving is less about its historical significance and more about a time to be with family and friends, and to be thankful.

“Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because I get to catch up with my family and friends while also eating really great food,” sophomore Ethan Asis said.

Of the Upper School students who celebrate Thanksgiving, only 25% actually celebrate any component of its historic past.

“I think people know of the historical significance and that it is there, but I think that most people celebrate it just because it’s Thanksgiving and it has become a part of American culture,” Asis said.

Most students surround themselves with immediate family for the holidays; 80% said they celebrated with parents and siblings, and almost 75% percent said they also celebrated with extended family. Only 30% of students said they celebrated Thanksgiving with friends.

“I can hang out with [my] friends anytime, but I usually celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. It’s the one time of year when we set aside all other plans and our differences and just get together and have some family time,” senior Mary Grant said.

[Thanksgiving] is the one time of year when we set aside all other plans and our differences and just get together.

— Mary Grant

Grant said that she also celebrated Thanksgiving by going to church to show her gratitude along with her family.

“To me… I mean the name itself [Thanksgiving] is about being grateful and thankful for the people and world around you. I feel like that is what Thanksgiving means to me and my family,” Grant said.

Junior Peter Kilborn doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving due to his own cultural differences.

“My family is from Spain so we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. It is just not something we feel the need to do. We just have a normal day,” Kilborn said.

“I think people celebrate it because it has become a huge part of American culture, so it’s almost like a thing they have to do,” he added.

But Grant doesn’t see it as just a thing to do: “Thanksgiving has definitely become associated with American culture, and it’s kind of cool to have a day like this where we can express our gratitude that’s unique to our nation,” she said.

However, not all students celebrate Thanksgiving with all the traditions that have come to be associated with the day.

9th grader Libby Cohen said her family keeps it simple: “For my family, we go around and say what we’re thankful for, but that’s about it. We make our own different traditions in some ways.”

While mashed potatoes, turkey, family, friends, laughing, and pie are what most people who celebrate Thanksgiving think of, the most common word associated with Thanksgiving is thankfulness.

“[Thanksgiving] is a day to be with family, eat food, and be thankful –  all great things!” Grant said.