What was the first Thanksgiving like for the Pilgrims?

What was the first Thanksgiving like for the Pilgrims?

From the time the pilgrims first landed in the new world, to the founding of this nation, and to the present day, people have gathered in private and public to petition the Almighty for help and to give thanks for the bounty they received from His hand. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, take time to reflect on your petitions to God, and the bounty He has blessed you with.

What was that first day of thanksgiving really like for the pilgrims. Leaving their homes in the old world to settle in the hostile environment of the new world could not have been easy. With sickness, death, and starvation all around them, does it seem a little odd that our thanksgiving traditions were born from this setting? Ironically, the easier things are, the less grateful we seem to be.

In reality, we will never know what that first day of thanksgiving was like for the pilgrims, but we can imagine. Three years after their landing, William Bradford wrote a proclamation, declaring a day of thanksgiving. The following is a fictional story of what that day might have been like.

A Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving

In the brisk morning of November 29, 1623, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony gathered at their humble meeting house, a modest building atop the hill, weathered by the winds from the sea. A thin layer of snow glistened on the ground, creating a serene backdrop for the historic day of thanksgiving. The small meeting house radiated warmth and unity as families streamed in, dressed in heavy woolen clothes and carrying offerings of the harvest.

Inside, a fireplace crackled, casting a flickering light on the wooden benches arranged in a semicircle. The gathering was intimate yet spirited, with every corner of the room filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread and roasted game—a feast prepared in celebration of the bountiful harvest.

Governor William Bradford, a sturdy figure with a greying beard, stood at the front of the room, surrounded by the flickering light of candles. His eyes scanned the congregation, taking in the faces of those who had endured hardships, yet were grateful for the providence they had found in the New World.

Pastor John Robinson, a wise and gentle man, approached the simple wooden pulpit. His voice, resonant and filled with humility, echoed through the room as he began to speak. He recounted the challenges the Pilgrims had faced—the bitter cold of their first winter, the loss of dear friends, and the struggle for survival. But amidst those trials, he emphasized the strength they found in unity and their unyielding faith.

As he spoke, families huddled together, their hands tightly clasped in appreciation for the bonds that had sustained them. The flickering candles reflected in tearful eyes, mirroring the collective gratitude felt within the walls of the meeting house.

Governor Bradford then stepped forward, and with a steadying breath, he recounted the year's harvest—the abundance of corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables. He expressed gratitude for the forests teeming with game and the seas abundant with fish and clams. The Governor acknowledged the challenges faced by both the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, emphasizing the providence of God in protecting them amid the struggles and uncertainties that marked their interactions. He expressed appreciation for the mutual understanding and cooperation that had developed between the two communities.

In closing, he called for a moment of silent reflection. The room fell into hushed contemplation as each Pilgrim, with head bowed and heart full, offered their personal thanks. The flickering candles danced, casting shadows that mirrored the grateful spirits in that sacred space.

Afterward, the gathering spilled outside, the crisp air invigorating their spirits. The Pilgrims and their Wampanoag neighbors shared their feast, feasting on venison, wild turkey, freshly baked bread, and the various vegetables harvested from the Plymouth soil.

As the snow-covered landscape stretched before them, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, hand in hand, celebrated not just the abundance of the land but the strength they found in one another—a community bound by faith, resilience, and the shared hope for a future filled with promise.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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