They didn’t stuff themselves at the dinner table, then nap on the couch or put together their Black Friday shopping list. They didn’t crowd around their 60-inch plasma screen and watch football.
They spent most of their day thanking God for just being alive.
The Pilgrims and their new friends, the Indians, agreed to gather for a feast and celebrate life. They thanked God for bringing them safely and successfully through their first growing season and providing what they considered a bountiful harvest. It was their first celebration since arriving in the “new country.”
When they arrived they were all surprised to discover several Native Americans who spoke English and agreed to serve as interpreters between the Pilgrims and the Indians. One of those Native Americans was a brave Indian named Squanto. Squanto was twice captured by the English and ultimately returned to his homeland, only to find all the members of his tribe were dead — victims of the deadly fever they believed the invading English introduced into their tribe.
While serving as a slave in England, however, Squanto became a Christian. He returned to his homeland, this time with a fervent belief in God. Squanto’s friendship with the Pilgrims proved invaluable. The Pilgrims new friend helped them negotiate treaties with other neighboring tribes, who, at the time, were not particularly fond of the White Man.
The Indians’ experience with the new kids on the block wasn’t exactly what you’d call neighborly. The White Men invaded their villages, took their braves as slaves, carried off their woman, stole their pelts and shot them with their “firesticks”. Squanto helped the Pilgrims negotiate treaties that lasted almost 50 years with the their neighboring tribes.
At peace with their neighbors the Pilgrims focused on establishing their new colony. On April 5, 1651 they gathered on the shores of their new Mid Atlantic home and waved goodbye to the Mayflower as it set sail back to England. They cut ties with the Motherland for good. They were in America to stay.
Squanto taught his new friends how to plant corn and trap and hunt wild game like the natives.
The Pilgrims feared for their lives that first winter; but that first Spring, with Squanto’s help, the new settlers planted crops and prayed to God for His blessing. During the summer corn ripened in the fields and grapes grew plentiful in the warm mid Atlantic air. In fact, their gardens yielded enough crops to send boats up river to trade with Massachusetts Indians for beaver pelts.
Governor William Bradford probably designated a day in October to celebrate that first harvest in the new land. Abraham Lincoln first made Thanksgiving an official holiday on the fourth Thursday in November of 1863. The menu for that first meal included wild turkey, duck and goose, venison, lobster, eel pie, corn bread herbs, wild plums, berries and red and white wine.
More than 70 Native Americans showed up to celebrate with the Pilgrims. Some of the Indian guests went into the woods and returned with four deer for the meal.
The food from that first harvest meal was so bountiful the Indians stayed with the Pilgrims for three days.
Let’s compare our Thanksgiving table to theirs. Let’s compare our lot to theirs. Let’s compare our blessings to theirs.
Then let’s give Almighty God all the praise, honor and thanks for it all.