Thanksgiving feasts are as old as humankind’s agricultural bounty. They are found in every culture. Gratitude for another yeast’s food engenders humility before the Almighty and compassion for the less fortunate. The 1621 Pilgrim feast is regarded as the first Thanksgiving Day in American history, though Floridians in St Augustine (founded in the 1560s) and Virginians in Jamestown (1609) claim celebratory moments antedating the survivors of the Mayflower crossing.
The 1621 feast was the culmination of a series of miracles sustaining the fledgling colony. From sheer survival (half the colony died during the winter of 1620-1621 spent aboard the ship) to the encounter with the English-speaking Squanto, the Pilgrim’s were truly the recipients of many Providential blessings.
A forgotten part of the Thanksgiving legacy is the half-century of peace enjoyed by the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors. So many of the narratives of the Americas after 1492 are filled with conquests, displacements and disease. It is refreshing and instructive to see Europeans and Amerindian communities enjoying positive relations. The Pilgrims owed their survival to the helpfulness of Squanto and others. The Pilgrims experiences of marginalization and persecution no doubt influenced their policies of respect and toleration.
As we enjoy the bounty of our tables and televisions, let’s pause for a moment and thank the Lord for abundance and the relative peace and stability our nation enjoys. When virtue and mutual respect guide relationships, there is peace and property for all.