I grew up with three siblings, and my father has three brothers. I remember Thanksgivings in the DeArmon household as big, multi-day affairs where my cousins, siblings and I ran around playing hide-and-seek while the grown-ups argued politics around the dining room table.

Once everyone was seated but before we began plating up and eating the turkey, stuffing, and rice, one of our traditions was to go around and have each family member say what they were thankful for. This exercise was done in chronological order, proceeding from the youngest person to the oldest. Adult answers were usual: “the little things,” “family and friends,” “my good stable job,” while children’s answers ran the gamut: the family pet, a favorite stuffed animal, ice cream.

Most of our extended relatives have moved beyond the D.C. area so nowadays my family’s turkey day is small and subdued. Some years I can’t even attend, because I’m traveling or scheduled to work. But my fond childhood memories endure and I still think of Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday. I like how it’s unassuming and no-frills: no showy house decorations, costumes, tinsel, twinkly lights or wrapping paper, just cooking food and spending time with loved ones.

Most every American knows that Thanksgiving commemorates a 1621 feast celebrating the harmonious partnership between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. Fast-forward to Colonial America and one of George Washington’s first acts as President: the Thanksgiving Proclamation, which designated Thursday, November 26, 1789, as a day for Americans to praise God “for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us” (like, y’know, victory in the Revolutionary War).

Thanksgiving continued for years as a piecemeal holiday — various presidential administrations would decree a standalone national day while some individual states (mostly in New England) adopted it as a yearly tradition. Abraham Lincoln officially made it an annual nationwide holiday in 1863.

In 1939, Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving from the fourth Thursday of November to the third, in an effort to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. His decision was derisively called “Franksgiving” and universally hated. Sixteen Republican states flat-out refused to acknowledge the switch and continued to celebrate on the fourth Thursday. There was such outcry that in 1941 Franklin switched it back.

Oh, America. Even back in the golden Roosevelt era we politicized everything. I think of FDR as a hero who stewarded our country through the dark days of the Depression and World War II. But he was subject to the same vitriol, dissent and displeasure as every other political leader — over an issue that seems so quaint! I would love to trade 2021’s violent polarization over masks, vaccines and critical race theory for controversy about the timing of a measly holiday.

The passage of time puts a nice luster on all the rough edges. Take our Thanksgiving myth — there was a feast between the Wampanoag Tribe and the Pilgrims, but each had their own political and economic motivations for cooperating. And our grade-school history classes completely omit the fact that one big peaceful 1621 party was followed by centuries of war, disease, and displacement.

The same could be said for my own Thanksgiving memories, all conveniently absent of holiday stressors like travel, family arguments, a kitchen full of dirty dishes, or the chaos wrought by groups of children. This can be a difficult time of year for all sorts of reasons, but that doesn’t negate the things there are to be thankful for.

Alexandra DeArmon grew up in Frederick. She now splits her time between Maryland and Alaska. xandra.dearmon@gmail.com.

(14) comments

jsklinelga

Not surprising my comments were trolled by the constant troll but the remarks are typical as well as meaningless. My comment was to Ms. DeArmon..In many ways she typifies the un-thankfulness and revisionism of the liberal progressive movement. Thankfully a movement that the majority of Americans are rejecting.

Whether you reflect on the real feast of Thanksgiving of 1621. Or the genuine thankfulness of George Washington living through a war and establishing the first real free Republic ruled by the citizens. Or Abraham Lincoln's thankfulness in the midst of a war. Thanksgiving is not a ,measly holiday.

It is a holiday celebrated with thanksgiving by millions, over generations, for living in the greatest country in the history of man.

phydeaux994

Explain that jsk. BTW, the majority of Americans aren’t rejecting it, the losers in America are rejecting it. And the majority of Liberals/Dems aren’t Progressives.

saogirl52

I think Alexandra wrote a lovely article. Because she left out the fact that Pilgrims were starving, you discounted everything she wrote in a very mean-spirited manner. What's wrong with you? Her writing doesn't typify any "liberal" or "progressive" line of thought, although I hope she is not the opposite, close minded and backward thinking, as your writing typifies and leads me to believe you are. Just stop, be thankful for what you have, and enjoy the holiday with your family. And I especially wish the DeArmons a happy Thanksgiving.

gabrielshorn2013

Couldn't agree more, saogirl52. This whole attack was just strange...and uncalled for.

public-redux

nelga’s characteristically ambiguous writing leaves me wondering if the “constant troll” is phydeaux or piedmontgardener.

public-redux

Lovely column. Heartwarming and clear-eyed.

Dwasserba

[thumbup]public I don’t understand vitriol directed toward this writer.

public-redux

I think it’s just that time of year for some people. The “holiday season” can bring out the worst in them. My speculation, at least for some folk, is that they think there is a right way to observe the holidays and are bothered by folk doing it differently (pr. “incorrectly”).

gabrielshorn2013

Same here, Deb. smh...🙄

public-redux

deb, Now that I think about it, I’m reminded of the elderly father of a friend. He became steadily more vitriolic and mean in his latter years. A neurologist hypothesized that he had had a series of micro strokes that had changed his personality. On the other hand, nelga’s personality doesn’t seem to have changed much over the years. Perhaps what we see is what we get.

jsklinelga

Ms. DeArmon,

I find your column borderline repugnant and quite hypocritical. You reflect on family holidays. Obviously feasts celebrated with family and friends in a land of freedom and abundance. Pleasant childhood memories. Then you proceed down the all too typical modern liberal path of condemnation. and historical revision

Yes land disputes would escalate tensions and the colonists and Indians would fight as history plainly shows but that is the history of man as much as it is the history of New England.

But I strongly reject your comment the Thanksgiving myth. Revisionist history that completely discounts the real facts and eye witness accounts. In the winter of 1620 death reigned .Almost 1/2 of the Pilgrims died. Scurvy,, starvation

jsklinelga

whoops cut short

The feast was a feast of Thanksgiving and prayer. Here is an actual account:

"Our harvest being gotten in, our

governor sent four men on fowling, that

so we might after a special manner

rejoice together, after we had gathered

the fruits of our labors; they four in one

day killed as much fowl, as with a little

help beside, served the Company almost

a week, at which time amongst other

Recreations, we exercised our Arms,

many of the Indians coming amongst us,

and amongst the rest their greatest king

Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom

for three days we entertained and

feasted, and they went out and killed five

Deer, which they brought to the

Plantation and bestowed on our

Governor, and upon the Captain and

others. And although it be not always so

plentiful, as it was at this time with us,

yet by the goodness of God, we are so

far from want, that we often wish you

partakers of our plenty."

Turkeys were in abundance. So was a genuine thanks to God. Which by extension we celebrate our abundance and good fortune yearly in America

Piedmontgardener

And that has exactly what to do with a lovely column on one family's traditions? You need some help, your comments have gotten more and more focused on your grievances that the actual column or letter.

phydeaux994

You always paint a beautiful picture of absolute Nirvana, outlining the way a perfect World should be, everyone loving and supporting everyone else absent of any biases and then express your absolute support of a man who represents the exact opposite of all of those things, promoting hate and division and violence to achieve his agenda. Good people can no longer serve in this Country to bring us together, to make the Country a better place for every citizen without facing the threat of death and violence against them and their families. Explain that.

Welcome to the discussion.

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