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Thankful Thanksgiving Thoughts

A reflection on the true definition of Thanksgiving

The mere mention of Thanksgiving brings forth the memories and smells of a glazing turkey in the oven, gravy bubbling on the stove, and the sweet smell of fresh apple pie. However, besides the delicious food that is traditionally placed on the table, Thanksgiving is also a day of self-reflection through a constant: “What are you thankful for this year?” 

Unfortunately, it feels as if this vital aspect of truly searching within ourselves during this day of gratitude is easily buried by the excitement of the food and celebrations that are welcomed by the holiday. It is incredibly important to remember that there are many things to be grateful for in this life. By constantly focusing on the negatives, we will certainly miss out on the wonders that this pretty little life has to offer. 

Thanksgiving itself has a varying meaning to each person, it may be “a day to have a break and relax or shop” as Vinnie Huang, a freshman, told The Beacon. It could also be “a time where family gets together” as stated by a junior, Yasmin Cinto. 

For some, Thanksgiving holds a religious significance. Kayla Wright, a sophomore, told The Beacon that “Growing up it was more of a religious holiday in the sense of giving thanks to god and the history of [Thanksgiving] wasn’t really explained until school, but for me it has more of a religious connotation than historical.”  

Nevertheless, the FHHS community all came to a consensus: Thanksgiving is a day of self-reflection, where we can just take a moment to reevaluate our gratitudes and where our loyalties lie within our lives and communities. As Dr. Belesis, a history teacher at FHHS puts it, “Sometimes you know we take things for granted but we can’t, simple things like getting up in the morning or having dinner with family every single day, oh, I’m so grateful for that.” 

The simple things in life are what we tend to take for granted and we forget that these “mundane objects or opportunities” are not accessible to everyone, to some they may be seen as a luxury. 

When reflecting upon what we are grateful for, the topics of family, friends and health are seen as ordinary “cliches” that aren’t taken seriously, however they should be treated with a high regard of thoughtfulness. These similarities in thankfulness prove that we truly are not all that different when it comes to the foundations that uphold our moral and belief system, instead of labeling them as “cliches” they should be considered connections that intertwine our lives with others. Mr. Katsiaris, an English teacher, Dr. Belesis and a senior, Victoria Evans, all have common ground when it comes to the gratitude they share for the support systems in their lives, including pets, which Mr. Katsiaris adds that his dog, Loki, acts as an “adorable stress-reliever.” 

Whether it be “everyone that is consistently there for me,” as provided by Victoria Evans, or a “family with the teachers,” as stated by Mr. Katsiaris, these people in our lives that truly serve as a backbone deserve to know that we are thankful for them. 

Besides the people, there are also personal and materialistic items that play a vital role in our lives. Ava Shamid, a junior, expresses that she is grateful for “food on my plate, the clothes on my back and the roof over my head.” 

Hannah Lemes, a junior, playfully states she’s grateful “that my grandma is an amazing cook because Thanksgiving would not hit without really good turkey.” We can all agree with Hannah that a great cook in the family definitely comes in handy when Thanksgiving rolls around. 

A senior, Emely Ventura shared, “I’m grateful for my physical and mental health because last year was really difficult with my mental health and everything and this year I started therapy.” This action of looking back and realizing that you’ve not only grown as a person, but you’ve also had the courage to take those steps is a gift in and of itself. Even if the past may not be as ideal as you would like it to be, taking that step is the first move in creating that future. 

Thanksgiving also gives us a chance to determine how our morals and values may have changed throughout the course of time. Through the wise words of a senior, Reana Churaman, “I always like to say that you have to stay true to yourself and do right by you and I am slowly starting to realize that it’s okay to put yourself first.” We are not the same people from years ago, or even a month ago, this ever-changing life keeps us on our toes at all times. This day solely focused on reflection provides an opportunity to grab time and stop it for just a moment. 

However, why only on Thanksgiving? Shouldn’t we take time out of every day to reflect? This is the very reason why some aren’t as fond of the holiday in the first place, Victoria Evans provided some interesting insight on her personal view of the holiday. “It’s a part of my everyday life which is why I don’t like Thanksgiving because it makes people only think about food and feel that they have to be grateful instead of appreciating everyday life.” While it is ideal to take time out of every day to appreciate life, it may not always be possible. We are constantly swept away by the chaos that life brings, but gratitude also shouldn’t feel like a burden. It should be as light as a feather but know that it holds the weight of a boulder. 

Dr. Belesis added that,

“Everyday I always have gratitude for something. I always make sure I’m grateful for something, whether it’s waking up in the morning and breathing in the beautiful air, whether it’s going to work, whether it’s being with family sitting down eating dinner, just common things that I am thankful for everyday.”

Instead of waiting year round for Thanksgiving, taking a moment to just stop and smell the roses would be equally as rewarding, even if it is without the company of amazing food. 

Thanksgiving is commonly known as an American holiday, while the traditions do stretch around the world, the history is unique to the commonly known American story of Indigenous peoples and Pilgrims. The day itself has been stereotypically painted as this union of simple friendship of unnamed Native Americans and Pilgrims, in reality according to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the “First Thanksgiving” was not in actuality the “first.” Native Americans, specifically the Wampanoag Tribe, had been participating in these traditions of giving thanks and gratitude for thousands of years before the appearance of Europeans. 

It was after careful delegation and negotiation that the Wampanoag Tribe decided to aid the English settlers, which brought about the “First Thanksgiving,” but they had a motivation of political and diplomatic alliance rather than an urge of friendship. For a short time, there was cooperation and peace, but that soon gave way to war and genocide targeted towards all Native Americans. History is not pretty, nor will it ever be, but we can still respect it and the Wampanoag Tribe by expressing our gratitude and further educating ourselves. 

This life that we are given is oh so short, but oh so very long. So, celebrate in any and every way that you know with the people that you love the most. Whether it be by indulging in the most stereotypical American food or with your own traditional food with friends or family. Express and reflect on love and appreciate what you have no matter how big or small. Happy Thanksgiving to all and what are you truly thankful for this year? 

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About the Contributor
Athena Vishudanand
Athena Vishudanand, Assistant Editor-in-Chief
Athena, a junior and an aspiring lawyer in the Law Academy has a plethora of interests that fulfill her life. She finds immense joy in reading and writing and channels this passion as a contributor to The Beacon. She also has a soft spot for investigative journalism and finds a quiet beauty within the search for the truth and the freedom of the press. Among and outside of the Forest Hills High School community she is also a writer for the Law Academy Newsletter, a black belt in the martial art of Shotokan, a member of the Moot Court and Mock Trial Competition Team and is an avid watcher of all things, especially (but not limited to) those pertaining to the Marvel Universe.
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