Commentary | Giving thanks, twice

Re-evaluating differences between American and Canadian Thanksgiving

After reading the article “Thanks, but no thanks” (October 17) in the last issue of The Daily, I can’t help but notice a subtle anti-American tone buried underneath the piece. Summarizing American Thanksgiving as a consumerist holiday tainted with the oppression of Native Americans and characterized mainly by stereotypical football games is not only hypocritical, it is highly offensive.  As a New Yorker who has experienced many Thanksgivings similar to the author’s description of  the holiday across the border as “a time to relax and eat good food,” I  feel obligated to speak out.  Although the author focuses most of her argument on highlighting negative aspects of American Thanksgiving, she should  realize that the culture of Canadian and American traditions are  extremely similar.

I’d like to mention that the ‘controversial’  aspect of the Thanksgiving south of the border – namely that it celebrates the oppression of Native Americans – which the author insinuates as inherently American, is something shared by Canadians. The United States is not the only country that has exploited aboriginal people – First Nations individuals in Canada have unfortunately suffered the same history of repression. Furthermore, some historical sources cite the origin of Canadian Thanksgiving as being brought over to the north by loyalists who fled during the American Revolution. Satirizing the “wholesome” relations between colonists and aboriginals  seems like a cheap insult. The point of Thanksgiving in America is not to whine about historical conflict; something that happened 300 years ago  – it’s to be thankful for the  blessings that we have today. Relating hard working, modern American families to a disgusting colonial offence is pointless.

The author also criticized the American Thanksgiving for being  ‘consumerist’ . Black Friday may be an example of overblown  greed, but  it’s just a day of sales where people can buy cheaper presents for the holiday season that comes  afterwards. Am I dumb for that considering the capitalist consumer fascination with Christmas is also present in Canada? It would seem that the heritage of the two Thanksgivings isn’t so different after all.  Americans aren’t all greedy, ignorant, football-loving, sensationalist animals who will trample anyone to buy an  iPhone on Black Friday. We aren’t celebrating our oppressive colonialist past and  we have parades because we want to celebrate a holiday. Is that so bad? My American Thanksgivings have been spent enjoying delicious meals, preceded by family members reciting what they are thankful for. And, last year, when I travelled to Ottawa to celebrate my first Canadian Thanksgiving,  it was pretty much the exact same thing.

If anything, the Thanksgiving myth that we “bright-eyed American schoolboys and girls” learned in grade school serves to teach that people can set aside their differences to understand each other just for one day. Maybe the author should follow suit and set aside her biases about America. On both sides of the border,  Thanksgiving is a time set aside so we can sit back, forget about materialism, and love each other through home and food. And, now that I attend McGill, I’m so happy I get to celebrate my favourite holiday twice.

Joseph Rucci is a U1 Cultural Studies student. You can reach him at joseph.rucci@mail.mcgill.ca.


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