The Pilgrims, Native Americans (specifically the Wampanoag tribe), and the Thanksgiving celebration are inextricably linked. Each Thanksgiving Americans recall the celebration of the first successful harvest in the Plymouth Colony in 1621. No place in America is more connected to that first Thanksgiving celebration than the Plimoth Plantation. In an article about that occasion found on the Plantation’s website, it states:
“Giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts had always been a part of Wampanoag daily life. From ancient times, Native People of North America have held ceremonies to give thanks for successful harvests, for the hope of a good growing season in the early spring, and for other good fortune such as the birth of a child. Giving thanks was, and still is, the primary reason for ceremonies or celebrations. As with Native traditions in America, celebrations — complete with merrymaking and feasting — in England and throughout Europe after a successful crop are as ancient as the harvest-time itself. In 1621, when their labors were rewarded with a bountiful harvest after a year of sickness and scarcity, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God and celebrated His bounty in the Harvest Home tradition with feasting and sport (recreation). To these people of strong Christian faith, this was not merely a revel; it was also a joyous outpouring of gratitude.”
The Plimoth Plantation article notes that we really know very little about that first Thanksgiving celebration. In fact, only a single paragraph written by Edward Winslow is all we have to go on. According to MayflowerHistory.com, “Edward Winslow and wife Elizabeth came on the Mayflower to Plymouth in 1620. Elizabeth died the first winter, and Edward remarried to the widowed Mrs. Susanna White, on 12 May 1621 — the first marriage in the Plymouth Colony. Winslow quickly became one of the more prominent men in the colony. He was on many of the early explorations of Cape Cod, and led a number of expeditions to meet and trade with the Indians.” Despite the trials he had endured, Winslow wrote, “And God be praised we had a good increase.” He continued:
“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 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 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.”
Even as the world turned more secular, celebrating the bounties of the earth remained a strong tradition. As folks face the prospect of the coming winter with its cold days and long nights, the act of gathering together as family and friends to eat good food and enjoy pleasant company holds its attraction. The Plantation article adds:
“Despite modern-age turmoil — and perhaps, even more so, because of it — gathering together in grateful appreciation for a Thanksgiving celebration with friends and family is a deeply meaningful and comforting annual ritual to most Americans. The need to connect with loved ones and to express our gratitude is at the heart of all this feasting, prayerful thanks, recreation, and nostalgia for a simpler time. And somewhere in the bustling activity of every November’s Thanksgiving is the abiding National memory of a moment in Plymouth, nearly 400 years ago, when two distinct cultures, on the brink of profound and irrevocable change, shared an autumn feast.”
There is certainly plenty of turmoil in the world today; nevertheless, I hope you have an opportunity today to reflect on the good things of life. Such reflection will lighten your heart and fortify your determination to face the challenges that lie ahead. From all of us at Enterra Solutions®, we hope you have a happy Thanksgiving.