___Did you know that our country’s first Thanksgiving was celebrated nearly 400 years
ago? The Pilgrims* and a group of others sailed to America on the Mayflower in 1620.
Having endured harsh religious persecution in England, the Pilgrims journeyed here to
worship God in freedom. Stormy weather, a poor diet, cramped quarters and unclean
conditions, marked their difficult two-month trip to America.
___Upon seeing land on November 9, 1620, many immediately knelt and thanked God.
There at Cape Cod they drew up the Mayflower Compact. In this historic document, they
agreed to make fair laws by majority rule with an elected government.
___After some exploration, they chose Plymouth, Massachusetts. The settlers quickly
started the hard work of building a Common House (for church, meetings, storage, shelter,
etc.), individual houses and fencing. With hunger, disease and bitter cold marking the first
winter, only about half of the original 102 passengers survived until spring.
___In March, an English-speaking Native American named Squanto came to them and
taught them many helpful survival skills. He showed the Pilgrims how to plant corn, beans,
squash and pumpkins. He showed them how to hunt and fish. He even showed them
where to gather wild berries, nuts and herbs.
___In the fall of 1621, the colony’s governor, William Bradford, decided they should all
have a Thanksgiving celebration to thank God for His many blessings. The Lord had
brought them far across the sea to a place where they could live and worship freely. He
led them off course through the storms to a perfect harbor, with land that was already
cleared, in an area of rich soil with four spring-fed creeks. There were plenty of trees to
build with (and for fire), as well as grasses for thatched roofs. The Lord had set them in an
area of friendly Native Americans who taught them how to survive in the bountiful
wilderness. He had helped them get through the harsh winter. And He gave them success
with their crops.
___The Pilgrims held this joyful celebration along with about 90 of the local Native
Americans. Their new friends brought several wild turkeys and deer to eat. They also
taught the Pilgrims how to make hoecakes, cornmeal pudding with maple syrup, and even
popcorn. Along with the deer and turkeys, the Pilgrims served fish, geese and ducks.
Fruits and vegetables came from both their gardens and the wild. These included: carrots,
onions, cucumbers, radishes, beets, cabbage, berries, pumpkins and plums. They also
made blueberry, apple and cherry pies from fruit the Native Americans had dried. The
celebration lasted for three days!
___Today we celebrate Thanksgiving to commemorate that first Thanksgiving and to
thank God for all the blessings He has given us modern-day people, too!1, 2, 3
[*Note: A "pilgrim" is a person on a religious journey.]
Ps 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks
to him and praise his name.
1 Thes 5:16-18 (KJV) Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give
thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Ps 84:5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on
___If you are near Plymouth, MA, from around March-November, you may want to
visit Plimoth Plantation, where you can see a Wampanoag Indian Settlement, a
reconstructed 1627 Pilgrim Village (with role players), and a full-scale replica of the
Mayflower II (with role players). For more information, see
___Additionally, Kate Waters has written several books (published by Scholastic
Inc.) with photographs by Russ Kendall showing Plimoth Plantation, the Mayflower
replica and some of the many role players that work there. The books include: Sarah
Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl (1989), Samuel Eaton's Day: A
Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy (1993), On the Mayflower: Voyage of the Ship's
Apprentice and a Passenger Girl (1996) and Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest
1 Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1977)
2 Ann McGovern, ...If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 (New York: Scholastic Inc., 1969)
3 J. I. Anderson, I Can Read About the First Thanksgiving (Mahwah, NJ: Troll Associates, 1977)
Give thanks to the LORD, for
he is good; his love endures
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