Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow. For most, it will be a day off from work or school. Many, including my husband and I, will travel to a family gathering. Televisions will be on so folks can watch parades and football. Traditional foods that vary by region will be prepared and enjoyed. The pies for my family’s dinner are cooling on my kitchen counter as I sit down to write. As I prepared pie crust and filled it with pumpkin and mincemeat, I remembered my grandmothers doing the same. I anticipated seeing my mom, my siblings, my brother’s kids and my own kids tomorrow, knowing we will talk and laugh and eat together – THANKFUL.

We will celebrate the holiday for the first time in my two sisters’ new home and will appreciate the closeness, both physical and emotional, of our family. For various reasons, we have not always been able to sit around the table on Thanksgiving. Yesterday I had a conversation with our newspaper carrier, a young man in his twenties, who told me that the people in his family will likely get their own food and eat in separate rooms as they do on most days – SAD.

My prayer is that many people will find ways during this season to forgive and reconcile with each other. More GRATEFULNESS and less BITTERNESS could bring healing and JOY to so many hearts!

Thanksgiving is a nostalgic holiday for some of us. I’ve kept artwork that my boys made in school depicting Pilgrims, Indians, and turkeys. The story of the origins of Thanksgiving has been brought under scrutiny, with some focus taken off of the Pilgrims’ praise for God’s goodness.

Anticipating Thanksgiving, I did a little digging into accounts of the 1621 gathering held by the Pilgrims of the Mayflower and attended by members of an Indian tribe. I found historian, archeologist, and author Caleb Johnson’s website to be helpful and interesting. Here are several points made about the event many call the first Thanksgiving:

  • During the year between the landing of the Mayflower at Cape Cod and the time of the harvest celebration in November of 1621, nearly half of the 102 immigrants died. The remainder came together in thankfulness for God’s provision despite their loss.
  • According to a letter written by Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow, many Indians came to join in “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 and bestowed to our governor.”
  • A written account by Governor William Bradford confirms the pilgrims had plenty of cod, bass and other fish in the summer and a great store of wild turkeys and well as waterfowl as winter approached.

Johnson’s article about Tisquantum (“Squanto”) fascinated me, since I don’t recall many details about the famous Patuxet Indian from school, other than he was friendly to the Pilgrims. Prior to the Mayflower landing in 1620, Captain John Smith explored the New England harbors, wanting to found a plantation there and engage the Indians in trade. At one point, he appointed his associate Thomas Hunt to do the trading. Hunt was not content with his gain by peaceable trade with the Indians and lured two dozen of them aboard his ship, where he took them captive and hauled them to Spain to sell as slaves. Squanto was among them. The Nauset and Patuxet tribes were outraged by the kidnappings and became hostile to the English and French folks landing in America. In Europe, some Spanish Friars spoiled Hunt’s greedy plan by taking custody of the unsold Indians and instructing them in the Christian faith. Squanto somehow escaped to England, learned the English language and made his way back to America to find the people of his village of Patuxet had died of a plague.

I encourage you to read the story of how Squanto then became an interpreter, negotiator, and guide for the Pilgrims (the part I remember from school.) But, as Caleb Johnson writes, “Squanto’s new-found power soon began to corrupt him.” He used the fear the Indians had of the English for his own benefit and “exacted tributes to put in a good word for someone, or threatened to have the English release the plague against them.” When Squanto’s treachery was discovered, he was nearly killed by the Pilgrims at Massasoit’s command. In a turn of events, he was spared, only to die a natural death a few months shy of the 1621 feast. As he was dying, Squanto asked Governor Bradford to “pray for him so he could go to the Englishman’s God in Heaven.”

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17




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