Celebrate the holidays respectfully

Keeping the Faith - Faith Elder

Thanksgiving is here, mark- ing the beginning of the holiday season.

The holidays are a season of giving, sharing, and spending time with family. From giving thanks in November to cele- brating the new year, people of all beliefs and backgrounds have a time to focus on their hopes and loved ones.

Thanksgiving in particular has been a time for people of all groups to gather and celebrate. The holiday is believed to have begun in 1621, when English colonists and the Wampanoag people shared a harvest feast. Since 1942, Thanksgiving has been celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

This year, it seems as if the holidays have been in full swing since the beginning of Novem- ber. With businesses trying to prompt more holiday spending, nearly every store is pander- ing to the season's sentiments. From coffee chains releasing holiday cups in early November to Radio stations switching to Christmas music, the holidays have crept in early.

This slow extension of the Holiday season is not new. Black Friday sales and traf- fic have been a part of urban American culture since the in- dustrial revolution. Since then, holiday sales have crept earlier and earlier.

For some, this extension of the season is a major annoyance. From the hassle of increased travel and traffic to listening to the corny music, the holidays can be an annoying and stress- ful period of time. Starting all the fuss and festivities earlier can seem to add pressure, mak- ing the season lose some of its magic.

But while being annoyed about a longer season is under- standable, being disrespectful to how others celebrate the hol- idays is not acceptable.

From holiday cup designs to how people should greet each other, how and what holidays people celebrate has become a splitting point in our society. With the season starting earli- er, these situations have already arrived. Even Thanksgiving has its controversies.

Thanksgiving itself can be controversial, celebrating one event of cooperation in a histo- ry of remarkable violence and discrimination. Generations of settlers took land and resourc- es by force, contributing to nu-

merous violent conflicts with indigenous peoples. To this day, native people are still dealing with the consequences. Some people have even chosen not to celebrate Thanksgiving as a protest of these issues.

But while the holidays and their histories can be contro- versial, they can still be a time for hope, peace, and working to make amends.

Everyone has the right to celebrate however they want. When respectful and thought- ful, there is no real harm in in- dividuals choosing to celebrate a differently, especially if it is in the name honoring the strug- gles of others. The issue is when people see these differences as offensive, not acknowledging the good intention.

Rather than being divided by our histories and traditions this year, it's time we start looking for our similarities more than our differences.

We all want to find and give some joy this season, whether traditional or otherwise. Not everyone is grateful and happy about the same things, so we cannot expect to celebrate them in the same way.

So this Thanksgiving, cele- brate in your own way - tradi- tional, odd, early or late - and let others celebrate in theirs. In- stead of spending another year divided over differences, work to understand others and look for unity in gratitude.

Faith Elder is opinion editor for the Thunderword.

Keeping the Faith

Faith Elder

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