Having grown up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and as one of the first guides at Plimoth Plantation, Thanksgiving has a special place in my heart. Working in the Pilgrim village, standing in reproductions of the crude homes in which the Pilgrims first lived, I could not imagine the hardships of that first bitter winter, when nearly half of their small band of 102 intrepid travelers (only 37 were Separatists) died from disease and deprivation. Try to imagine what it would be like to set off in a small, creaky ship on a vast ocean, leaving everything and everyone you have ever known, not knowing if you would even survive the trip, just to be able to worship God freely and in your own way.
The first Thanksgiving was a three day feast celebrated with the Wampanoag Indians, who contributed significantly to their survival. As written by Edward Winslow, one of the 53 surviving Pilgrims, and later governor of the Plimoth Colony:
“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 fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a 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 we 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.”
I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and may you be “partakers of our plenty.” And remember those who are less fortunate than we.