“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” - Psalm 90:1-2
We know that the first year our forebears landed at Plymouth Rock proved devastating, the environment unforgiving, with much suffering and loss through the first harsh winter. Were it not for the hospitality and generosity of the Wampanoag Indians, the Pilgrims may have all perished.
The first Thanksgiving was actually a harvest festival that likely included games and sport, not a religious occasion which would have been a much more sober affair, and had been previously celebrated in Europe long before the first settlers arrived in this land.
The next year, the prospects of the surviving settlers significantly improved, with the successful planting of grain, and the abundance of wild game and seafood.
The only items we can be certain were on the table during that first Thanksgiving were venison and some type of wild fowl, as described by Edward Winslow in his 1621 Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth:
“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, among 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 upon 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.”
We’ve landed on the shore of this Thanksgiving, bleary-eyed and stricken from so much angst and concern this past year. We surely long for a day of respite to play, and engage in games with our neighbors as did our Pilgrim forebears.
This year will be different from that. Missing will be the remembered games of touch football with the cousins, or card games after dinner with the grandkids. Instead, we’ll call our family or neighbors and share stories by phone or Zoom or Facetime. We’ll swap recipes as we look ahead to the next Thanksgiving, when we can all be together again.
Wherever you choose to celebrate this Thanksgiving, whether sheltered in your home with take-out food or gathered in your bubble with close family or friends, treasure the provision given to you by the grace of God, and give thanks. Give thanks.
Prayer for Thanksgiving:
God of harvest, gardener supreme
you feed us, equip us and having provided for us
look to a different harvest
a fruitfulness of lives in service to you and others.
God of harvest,
that our lives
might bring glory to you. Amen
God’s grace, mercy and peace,
Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Blessed Thanksgiving to you.