What Does Thanksgiving Mean to You?

We all know the story of the first Thanksgiving – or rather the myth which has been passed down through the generations about how the Mayflower voyagers and the local Native American tribe gathered together and broke bread. Since then, Thanksgiving has been bejeweled with paper hats, mashed-potatoes and gravy, turkey, and waxed leaves.

And while many other holiday meanings might be complex or commercialized – such as in the cases of Christmas and Halloween – Thanksgiving’s meaning is simple. And to prove it, we went around campus asking students and teachers what Thanksgiving means to them.

“Eating food,” junior Nathan Martinez answered without hesitation. Food – something always on the mind of every teenager.

And obviously some teachers, as Mr. Alvidrez said, “Thanksgiving means to me, obviously food…” Then he added, on a serious note, “but it’s a time to be thankful for your friends and your family.

To freshman Samantha Ross, Thanksgiving means “…hanging out with family and having a good time.”

“Thanksgiving is…a time to…be thankful for…being healthy and having a family…hopefully that your life is working well. And it’s good to have family and friends together.” Mr. Dethlefs (commonly known as Mr. D) said. 

For some, like Mrs. Castillo, a Spanish teacher here at Tulare Western, Thanksgiving isn’t so much about physical things as much as symbolism. “Thanksgiving represents unification despite differences.” She told the Stampede. “It’s a day the entire country stops and, despite how different we may be in other ways, takes time to be appreciative as well as enjoy time with family and friends.”

Wise words in a time where tradition and contemporary reasoning often clash.

And it’s true. While we celebrate Thanksgiving every year, and though the values of the first Thanksgiving have not been lost to us, other than that first time in Plymouth, 1621, Thanksgiving has been used as a tactic to bring people together nationally twice. The first, during the carnage of the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln established an official date for Thanksgiving, in hopes that it would bring some unity between the divided nation. The second, prompted by the Great Depression, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt used a presidential proclamation to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1939 in order to create some hope and economic upturn within the country.

There are also some of you who find Thanksgiving more a reminder than anything else, like Christmas. A time when we ponder rather than celebrate.

Mr. Young informed the Stampede that his Thanksgiving was “…a reminder of all the blessings that I have been given in my life: my family, friends, and all of the wonderful opportunities that I have had to experience the beauty of our world and of life itself.  Also, it is a great time to go out for a mega-long run so that I can work up an appetite so that I can enjoy our family feast…”

Alondra Villalobos, senior, said her Thanksgiving was when “…we’re all grateful for the things that God has given us and for why we’re living and…give thanks to our family because we’re all together.”

Others consider it a time better than Christmas – such as another senior, Lesley Valez, who felt, “It’s actually the best time of the year”and noted that was because, “I leave out of town to visit my grandparents.”

Thanksgiving means the act or acknowledgment of giving thanks. Every quote we received was a reflection of what many people are the most thankful for in their lives, no matter how cliche the answer might seem:

Food, health, peace, family, friends, and faith.

You might never know whether gift-giving is the correct way to celebrate Christmas, or whether Halloween is for haunting or remembrance – but you’ll always know that Thanksgiving is a time where we each acknowledge and act upon what we’re thankful for, big or small, whether it be good or bad, shallow or deep.

As we head off into the weekend and onto Thanksgiving break, take the time to hug someone you love, pet your animals, and think about what you’re most thankful for in your life, because those are the things that make life worth living and worth celebrating come Christmastime.

Thank you for reading this.

– Amanda Ross and Chloe Cushing, seniors

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