The First Thanksgiving

In 1620 the pilgrims planned to settle in the Hudson River region of New York, which at the time would have been Northern Virginia on a map.  But they landed in Cape Cod instead.  In the original plan they also intended to sail in two tiny ships, the Speedwell and the Mayflower.  Because the former was incredibly slow and only leaked well, it was sold, requiring everyone to crowd onto the latter and smaller of the two.  The plan was to leave in early April, but the 50 men, 20 women, and 32 children did not get underway until late August.
 
The pilgrims were in trouble the moment they set sail for the New World.  The stormy voyage across the Atlantic took over two months, twice as long as normal.  During that difficult time one sailor was lost, while one baby was born to Elizabeth Hopkins and then named after the sea: Oceanus.  Once anchored at Plymouth Rock, they stayed on board for another month while a landing party looked for a safe place.
 
The pilgrims were in deeper trouble once they set foot on dry land.  That year turned in the worst winter on record in New England!  Half of the immigrants died, including everyone in the families of Martin, Tinker, and Rigsdale; only the Billington family remained intact.  As the first thanksgiving drew closer in 1621, only three married couples were left unbroken.
 
The pilgrims would have stayed in trouble without help from the Wampanoag Indians who taught them how to plant corn in the spring.  Bur that wasn't their only problem.  Back home a new contract for the company was drafted to enslave the pilgrims for the next seven years.
 
Despite all their troubles the decision was made to celebrate anyway.  There were so many blessings for which they were truly thankful in the good land God had given to them.  The forests were green and thick, the crystal clear rivers were teeming with fish, the wide-open skies were filled with birds, there were plenty of wild turkeys, fresh berries, and that strange new crop of corn that their new neighbors had taught them to plant, harvest, and eat.  Their first thanksgiving lasted for two months from September 21 to November 11.
 
This wasn't planned to be a traditional feast; in fact, for the pilgrims and natives it was a special harvest party of food, singing, dancing, and recreational contests.  They didn't even call it Thanksgiving as we do today.
 
There wasn't a big stuffed turkey in the middle of the table, either.  No mashed potatoes, gravy, corn on the cob, cranberries or pumpkin pies.  No forks, just spoons and fingers!  But they did have meat from deer, birds, and seals; vegetables, seafood delicacies like clams, cod, eel, and lobster with a few dried nuts and fruits.  It was truly a celebration of life for the survivors on that first thanksgiving.  May our celebration at the Lord's Table be nothing less.
 
Your Pastor and friend,
Pastor Tom