Thanksgiving. Oh, yes—the holiday that marks the start of European colonists invading and exterminating thousands of indigenous people in America. Children are taught in schools that Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks and appreciation—like how the Pilgrims thanked the Native Americans for helping them survive their first harsh winter by inviting them to a feast with turkey, mashed potatoes, and pies.
To many Hmong families today—mine included—Thanksgiving is a time, not necessarily to show appreciation, but for friends and families to get together, cook, and eat. Thanksgiving falls right around the time Hmong families would be having their peb caug feasts. So, we cook both “Thanksgiving” food and traditional new year food and celebrate peb caug on or around Thanksgiving.
I have always pitied Thanksgiving. Poor holiday. It can’t help that its origin consisted of destructive pillages and bloody massacres of Native Americans. It can’t help that school officials refuse to discuss its true history to their students. I know that if it was up to Thanksgiving, it will be true to itself and not lie about its origin.
Sometimes, I wonder if it’s because of Thanksgiving’s history that Corporate America tends to neglect it and skip right from Halloween to Christmas. But then I remember that Corporate America is greed and greed doesn’t have a conscience.
Every year, I am saddened to see Christmas trees, lights, and ornaments (instead of Thanksgiving) replace Halloween decorations and costumes in stores. This year, I was very surprised to see Christmas stuff being sold in mid-October and Halloween wasn’t even over yet! (Or maybe it has been happening for years and I’ve just never noticed). Christmas is starting earlier and earlier each year, while Thanksgiving is pushed into a small dusty corner in all major department stores.
Thanksgiving is like the middle child of Corporate America—born in the middle, not given much attention to. Why? Because Corporate America cannot make as much money from it as it would from its counter-holidays: Halloween and especially Christmas. What is there to sell during Thanksgiving besides food? For Halloween, there is candy, costumes, make up, and decorations—and these things are not cheap—especially for those who go all out during this holiday. For Christmas, you have Christmas trees (plastic and fresh pine), ornaments, lights, decorations, and—most expensively of all—presents. Don’t forget the Christmas outdoor decoration battles that neighbors have each year (Christmas Tree Lane). This is why, Christmas overshadows Thanksgiving (and other holidays as well) all the time.
It also doesn’t help Thanksgiving much that Black Friday is right there with it as well. Instead of celebrating Thanksgiving, some families are getting ready for a cold night of camping out to (literally) fight the crowds for Black Friday deals.
Even if it is neglected by many out there, I will always remember Thanksgiving. Not because of its horrible history, but because, every time it comes around, I am reminded that Hmong New Year is just around the corner. To me, Thanksgiving and Hmong New Year go hand in hand (yes, in a very weird way).