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Thanksgiving 2022: the dark side of America’s most beloved holiday

Today 24 October 2022 in America celebrates Thanksgiving

By Camilla Alcini

1621, New England. With the promise of a new land full of resources and massive religious freedom, a group of pilgrims from the United Kingdom landed on the American east coast. After 66 days of sailing, the Mayflower was anchored in the port of Plymouth, Massachusetts, and its 102 passengers landed in the “New World”. A feeling of gratitude for the achievement and hospitality of the local tribe, the Wampanoag, pervades the souls of the pilgrims. Thus was born the Thanksgiving holiday, Thanksgiving.

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Un post condiviso da Claire Hy Outin (@claramaile)

As celebrated as it is controversial, Thanksgiving has united American families for hundreds of years. The protagonist is a very precise menu, which recalls the autumn foods that the natives made available to the Pilgrims in the 17th century: stuffed turkey, cranberry sauce, meat sauce, mashed potatoes, corn bread, green beans and brioche bread. Inevitable to close in beauty traditional cakes: pumpkin pie, apple pie and pecan pie.

Over 20 million students return home every year for Thanksgiving, so it’s a family moment, a taste of Christmas coming up, and the perfect opportunity to get into the festive mood and declare out loud the things you’re thankful for this year. After lunch, which goes on for a few hours, Americans love to stay in the company of loved ones, who often live in other cities. There are those who follow live from New York the iconic Macy’s parade, and those who prefer board games or sports.

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Un post condiviso da Mar Cascante (@mar_cascante)

But there is a dark side to the tradition. Due to its origins, Thanksgiving has often been loudly criticized. Many argue that it is a celebration of European colonialism and the violence perpetrated on the local indigenous tribes, to whom land, language and culture has been taken. The accusation is that of having “romanticized” an abuse that has lasted for hundreds of years and whose effects are still visible today, due to the systemic racism that ensued and poverty among the indigenous population (or what remains).

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Un post condiviso da Sina Sparrow Shamsavari (@thatsparrowboy)

The traditional menu is also highly criticized: 46 million turkeys are killed every year just for Thanksgiving. To meet this demand, turkeys are fattened and reared in an ethically problematic and dangerous manner. Finally, the environmental impact of this party is huge. Not only for the trips and the food that is served, but especially because after Thanksgiving comes the shopping spree of Black Friday. Discounts on discounts and unmissable offers generate a very high volume of purchases and traffic. It is difficult to give an exact estimate of the environmental cost of the days of Black Friday: just think of the emissions produced only at the level of deliveries of online orders and packaging. 

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Un post condiviso da Spirit Of 1876 (@spiritof1876)

There is much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, the first seemingly normal after two years of pandemic. But in its thanks, America will have to take into account all the problematic aspects of this holiday, recognize the past for what it really was and consider the consequences on animals, people and planet.