Grey’s Anatomy: ‘Thanksgiving Isn’t Really a Holiday We Should Celebrate’


ABC’s long-running primetime soap opera Grey’s Anatomy threw in a quick jab at Thanksgiving in its latest episode, calling the holiday illegitimate, because colonialism.

In a moment first noticed by Newsbusters, lead character Meredith Grey receives a reductionistic history lesson from her adopted daughter Zola, in the vein of Howard Zinn or Nikole Hannah-Jones.

“Thanksgiving isn’t really a holiday we should celebrate,” the tween character says, with all the subtlety of a G.I. Joe PSA. There’s no actual evidence Native Americans were even invited to a feast. I think they cared more about being colonized and having their land stolen than mashed potatoes.”

Unfortunately for Grey’s writers, there is much more to the history of Thanksgiving than tales of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a feast together. The general principle of the holiday is to recognize God’s provision in our lives — that our hearts continue to beat and our lungs continue to breathe, even though we do not will it (particularly when we sleep). That food grows from the ground and feeds our bodies, having survived pests and disease. That our families and loved ones continue to be near us and support us.

Thanksgivings in America’s colonial period were celebrated for many different reasons, often salient, often without any reference to the fabled “first” feast between Pilgrims and Natives. For example, George Washington‘s first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789 had most in mind the formation of the United States under its new constitution. Abraham Lincoln‘s 1863 proclamation focused primarily on the ongoing Civil War.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s proclamation in 1939, the year he made Thanksgiving a national holiday, said only of the Pilgrims that they “humbly paused in their work and gave thanks to God for the preservation of their community and for the abundant yield of the soil.”

And the Thanksgiving of real history was not one of mindless, rah-rah jingoism. Washington in 1789 urged Americans to “unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.” Lincoln recommended prayers “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.”

The Holy Bible is chock full of commands for people to give thanks to God, no matter their circumstances (Psalm 107:1, Colossians 3:17, Ephesians 5:18-20, 1 Thessalonians 5:18), and a lack of thankfulness to God is described as a symptom of futile thinking and numbed hearts (Romans 1:21).


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