Sunday, November 23, 2014


The Story:
The Pilgrims and America's First New England Thanksgiving
The Pilgrims, who celebrated their first thanksgiving in America, were fleeing religious restrictions in their native England. In 1609 a group of these Pilgrims left England for religious freedom in Holland where they lived and prospered. After a few years they realized that their children were speaking Dutch and had become attached to the Dutch way of life. This worried the Pilgrims. They considered the Dutch frivolous and their ideas a threat to their children's education and morality.
So they decided to leave Holland and travel to the New World. Their trip was financed by a group of English investors called the Merchant Adventurers. It was agreed that the Pilgrims would be given passage and supplies in exchange for their service to their backers for 7 years.
On Sept. 6, 1620 the 102 passengers, 74 males and 28 females, set sail for the New World on a ship called the Mayflower. They sailed from Plymouth, England and aboard were 44 who called themselves the "Saints", and 66 others, whom the Saints called "Strangers."
The long trip was cold and damp and it took 66 days. Since there was the danger of fire on the wooden ship, the food had to be eaten cold. Many passengers became sick and one person died by the time land was sighted on November 9th.
The long trip led to many disagreements between the "Saints" and the "Strangers". After land was sighted a meeting was held and an agreement was worked out, called the Mayflower Compact. On November 11, 1621, 41 of the 101 passengers signed the agreement which guaranteed equality and unified the two groups. They joined together and named themselves the "Pilgrims."
Although they had first sighted land off Cape Cod they did not settle until they arrived at Plymouth, which had been named by Captain John Smith in 1614. It was there that the Pilgrims decide to settle. Plymouth offered an excellent harbor. A large brook offered a resource for fish. The Pilgrims biggest concern was attack by the local Native American Indians. But the Patuxets were a peaceful group and did not prove to be a threat.
The first winter was devastating to the Pilgrims. The cold, snow and sleet was exceptionally heavy, interfering with the workers as they tried to construct their settlement. March brought warmer weather and the health of the Pilgrims improved, but many had died during the long winter. Of the more than 100 Pilgrims who left England, less that 50 survived the first winter.
On March 16, 1621, what was to become an important event took place, an Indian brave walked into the Plymouth settlement. The Pilgrims were frightened until the Indian called out "Welcome" (in English!).
His name was Samoset and he was an Abnaki Indian. He had learned English from the captains of fishing boats that had sailed off the coast. After staying the night Samoset left the next day. He soon returned with another Indian named Squanto who spoke better English than Samoset. Squanto told the Pilgrims of his voyages across the ocean and his visits to England and Spain. It was in England where he had learned English.
Squanto's importance to the Pilgrims was enormous and it can be said that they would not have survived without his help. It was Squanto who taught the Pilgrims how to tap the maple trees for sap. He taught them which plants were poisonous and which had medicinal powers. He taught them how to plant the Indian corn by heaping the earth into low mounds with several seeds and fish in each mound. The decaying fish fertilized the corn. He also taught them to plant other crops with the corn.
The harvest in October was very successful and the Pilgrims found themselves with enough food to put away for the winter. There was corn, fruits and vegetables, fish to be packed in salt, and meat to be cured over smoky fires.
The Pilgrims had much to celebrate, they had built homes in the wilderness, they had raised enough crops to keep them alive during the long coming winter, and they were at peace with their Indian neighbors. They had beaten the odds and it was time to celebrate.
The Pilgrim Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to be shared by all the colonists and the neighboring Native Americans. They invited Squanto and the other Indians to join them in their celebration. Their chief, Massasoit, and 90 braves came to the celebration which lasted for 3 days. They played games, ran races, marched and played drums. The Indians demonstrated their skills with the bow and arrow and the Pilgrims demonstrated their musket skills. Exactly when the festival took place is uncertain, but it is believed the celebration took place in mid-October.
We find a written account, penned by a participant, Edward Winslow, in a letter dated December 12, 1621. Allow me to share from that letter.
Our corn did prove well, and God be praised, we had good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. 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 fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with 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 among 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. (A letter written by Edward Winslow from Plymouth, dated December 12, 1621) Source –
The following year the Pilgrims harvest was not as bountiful, as they were still unused to growing the corn. During the year they had also shared their stored food with newcomers and the Pilgrims ran short of food.
The 3rd year brought a spring and summer that was hot and dry with the crops dying in the fields. Governor Bradford ordered a day of fasting and prayer, and it was soon thereafter that the rain came. To celebrate - November 29th of that year was proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. This date is believed to be the real true beginning of the present day Thanksgiving Day.
The custom of an annually celebrated thanksgiving, held after the harvest, continued through the years. It was in 1777, during the American Revolutionary War, that the Continental Congress issued a proclamation that all 13 of America’s colonies set aside a day of thanksgiving in celebration of their recent victory over the British at Saratoga. In 1789 George Washington declared the first national day of Thanksgiving. (Source:

In 1817 New York State had adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom. By the middle of the 19th century many other states also celebrated a Thanksgiving Day.
With the threat of civil war bearing down upon our nation’s people, a young lady named Sarah J. Hale set about on a one woman letter writing campaign, urging politicians to establish an annual national day of thanksgiving which she passionately believed would help unite our great nation.

Hale’s efforts were finally rewarded by Abraham Lincoln. In 1863 President Lincoln signed a proclamation declaring the last Thursday of November as our nation’s annual Thanksgiving Day. The rest is history … as will be the approximate 700 million pounds of turkey which will be consumed on Thanksgiving Day this year in the US, tomorrow.

Since 1863 each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, usually designating the fourth Thursday of each November as the holiday.
Well, where does God fit into all of this? To whom do we imagine those pilgrims, the 13 colonies, George Washington, Sarah Hale, President Lincoln or Americans tomorrow are giving their thanks? Of course … it is to our Heavenly Father, the One True and Living God who gives us the harvests in its season.

Thanksgiving Day, however, is not an American phenomenon, nor were our politicians the first to declare such a celebration. We read from historical accounts that people have been joining together to thank God for His blessings on their harvest for thousands of years before Mayflower ever set sail toward the Americas. Returning thanks has been both an honor and a duty ever since mankind was created and placed in the Garden of Eden by the hand of God.

The Word of God instructs us to be thankful, not only for the evident blessings we enjoy, but for everything in life. Let’s read
The Truth:
Psalms 65 NLT
1 ¶ What mighty praise, O God, belongs to you in Zion. We will fulfill our vows to you,
2 for you answer our prayers, and to you all people will come.
3 Though our hearts are filled with sins, you forgive them all.
4 What joy for those you choose to bring near, those who live in your holy courts. What joys await us inside your holy Temple.
5 You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.
6 ¶ You formed the mountains by your power and armed yourself with mighty strength.
7 You quieted the raging oceans with their pounding waves and silenced the shouting of the nations.
8 Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy.
9 You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The rivers of God will not run dry; they provide a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so.
10 You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges. You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops.
11 You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
12 The wilderness becomes a lush pasture, and the hillsides blossom with joy.
13 The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep, and the valleys are carpeted with grain. They all shout and sing for joy!
The truth is, Our God deserves thanks!
It is therefore fitting that we join ourselves together with family and friends tomorrow and celebrate the goodness and blessings bestowed on us and our nation in this past year by the hand and providence of Almighty God. The bountifulness of our great nation serves to show the world that:

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance. (Psalms 33:12)