Thanksgiving is a pretty irresistible time of year. You get to stay inside and be cozy in the cold weather, eat delicious food and spend time with friends and family. But there is an unfortunate dark shadow over Thanksgiving that people are focusing on more and more these days: It’s not a very politically correct holiday.
The association of Thanksgiving with “breaking bread” with the Native Americans and deciding to share the land is clearly insulting and not true. And what’s worse, Black Friday injuries and deaths over the past few years that made Americans look totally self-absorbed and stuff-hungry. But we’ve already set aside this time to eat good food, take some time off and be around friends and family, and that is certainly a good thing.
Here are some ways that you can celebrate this hallowed holiday this year without coming off as culturally insensitive.
1. Give back and get involved on Thanksgiving Day.
It’s easy to be a Scrooge on Thanksgiving Day and focus on the fact that the day is all about taking from Native Americans and being colonialist. But in the reality is, there is no going back in time and fixing past wrongs. There are, however, a lot of hungry people in the U.S. today who aren’t lucky enough to be able to go get or cook food on Thanksgiving and who don’t have any friends or family to share the holiday with.
A great way to make things better is to volunteer your time at a church, community shelter or homeless shelter on Thanksgiving. You can participate in cooking a big, delicious, Thanksgiving meal for those in need, and then at the end of the day you can sit down with the other volunteers and have your own feast. If cooking is not your scene, you can also look into getting involved with a toy drive or some other pre-Christmas charity.
2. Take some time to learn U.S. history.
If the whole history-of-Thanksgiving thing is bogging you down and you can’t get passed it, spend the days you have off doing some homework and educating yourself on U.S. history. If your line of work doesn’t involve tutoring or teaching history, chances are you might not have brushed up on American history since high school or college. If you take your Thanksgiving break to read up on the history of Native Americans and colonialism, you can become more informed as to why you do not appreciate this holiday, and also get better versed in the context of your country.
3. Have an all-veg or alternative meal.
Another complaint many people make about Thanksgiving is that it is not very vegetarian or alternative diet-friendly. This year, challenge yourself to make a meal for friends and family that excludes meat, or that meets some other dietary restrictions. The Tofurkey, or tofu turkey, is an incredibly popular staple for vegetarians on Thanksgiving.
Try whipping that up with some vegetarian gravy, mashed potatoes made with rice milk and vegan butter, stuffing and veggies. You can also look up gluten-free alternatives, or try a whole new approach like cooking up some locally hunted game or making a duck for your center piece.
4. Make some eco-friendly Christmas decorations.
Thanksgiving has always been associated with Christmas preparations. People go Black Friday shopping the day after, put up their Christmas tree and decorations, and generally get ready for the holiday season. If you want to go for something a little bit less mainstream, try making your own Christmas decorations over the break.
Try painting popcorn and stringing it up to make a chain, or painting and finishing some pine cones and hanging them on ribbons to make an awesome Christmas tree ornament. This is a great way to get ready for the holidays and do some arts and crafts without spending a ton of money or buying into the Christmas consumerism.
5. Spend time with friends as well as family.
Thanksgiving is notoriously a time to spend with family, but a lot of Denverites are transplants and won’t be able to fly all the way home for the short holiday break. If that is the case for you, have a Friendsgiving with some of your closest friends out in Denver, and make the best of it anyway.
Having a get-together with friends can be the perfect way to counteract the blues if you are hundreds of miles from family. Have a potluck party, make some drinks and roast a turkey, and invite over all who are near and dear to you. After all, even if the spirit of the holiday may have some fatal flaws, at the end of the day it’s all about good food, friends and family.