It should be noted that the early pilgrims were coming to America because of religious persecution in England. Their usual days of Thanksgiving were fasting and not feasting, but the day we celebrate “Thanksgiving Day” (the fourth Thursday of every November) is definitely a day of feasting and giving thanks with loved ones. The first Thanksgiving meal was more likely roasted deer, not turkey, though they did eat cranberries.
The pilgrims from the ship, the Mayflower, celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day in 1621 so it has been a long time. The official American declaration of it as a National Holiday did not really happen until 1941, which meant everyone could have the day off work with pay. President Abraham Lincoln did say it should be a celebrated holiday in something like 1863. A dear lady, Sarah Josepha Hale, worked tirelessly for forty years in her crusade to get Thanksgiving to be a recognized national holiday. (Sarah was a very influential person in the media of her day, as well as being the author of the children’s poem, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.) Finally, Congress agreed and, since 1941, the fourth Thursday in November has been the recognized national holiday, Thanksgiving.
One story that came from the San Antonio Express news is a new one for me so I thought I would pass it along to you on this day we are giving thanks for all that God has done for us. The story serves to remind us that not all of the European travelers, who journeyed to the new land that would be called America, came for religious reasons; some were there for the hope of financial gain only.
On Sept. 6, 1620, the Pilgrims left England, setting sail for America. They eventually arrived in Plymouth. They lived on the Mayflower all through the winter, going back and forth to build houses and barns in the area.
The Pilgrims finally moved ashore in March and, on March 16, a miracle happened. An Indian named Samoset walked into their colony without threat or fear and welcomed them. In their journal, the Pilgrims wrote: “He told us the place where we now live is called Patuxet, and that about four years ago, all the inhabitants died of an extraordinary plague.”
Samoset also told them about another Indian named Tisquantam who spoke better English and could help establish relations with the Indians. Tisquantum and Chief Massosoit met them a week later and the two groups negotiated a peace and trading treaty. Tisquantum soon became an essential member of Plymouth colony. He helped them negotiate peace with other Indian leaders. Tisquantum was their guide, teaching them to grow corn by using local fish as fertilizer.
All of what you just read is amazing. Why? Because Tisquantum (Squanto), the last surviving member of the Patuxet tribe, had been kidnapped by a greedy Englishman and taken back to Europe. He eventually learned English and escaped to England.
Tisquantum's people were outraged at the kidnapping of Squanto and other Indians. And so they had been attacking other English settlers. Tisquantum returned in order to negotiate peace only to find out that his tribe had been wiped out by a plague. And then, when more Englishmen returned to settle the now-empty land of his people, his response was to help them!
What an answer to prayer for the Pilgrims, who wondered how they would survive: God sent them an English-speaking Indian who worshipped the Christian God.
These Pilgrims eventually celebrated with the Indians Squanto helped make peace with, what we now call “The First Thanksgiving.”
You never know when God may use your hardship to answer the prayer of someone else.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
I love this example of both God’s provision for those settlers who were innocent of this dear Indian man’s tragic situation, and of the true forgiveness the Indian man demonstrated towards the English settlers!
Lastly, to all of you fellow Americans living in or outside the USA:
***Have a blessed day giving thanks, even if you’re not American!