"" Writer's Wanderings: What Were The Pilgrims Thankful For?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

What Were The Pilgrims Thankful For?

History was not my favorite subject in school. It might have been if I'd had some better teachers who made it interesting and/or relational rather than just a rote memorization of times, dates, and places and battles and wars and more dates. Now as an adult, I'm finding history a lot more fascinating especially as we travel and see how some of it fits together--how it affected cultures and changes and yes, migrations.

All of the postings on Facebook about what people are thankful for got me to wondering--what was it the Pilgrims were thankful for? And so my search began.

The Pilgrims were actually a group that had moved from England to escape religious persecution and settled in Holland where they had greater freedom to worship as they wanted. The problem came in that their children started taking on too much of the Dutch culture and the parents didn't want them to lose their English roots.

A group of 44 "saints" and 66 "strangers" as they were called boarded a ship in Plymouth, England, bound for the New World. They were financed by a group of merchants who gave them passage and supplies in exchange for their agreeing to work for them for seven years.

It took 65 days to cross the Atlantic. On a wooden ship there could be no fires so food was eaten cold. Many were sick. By the time they landed at what is now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts, it was November 10 and they had no idea what the winter would hold.

By the spring, less than 50 had survived and they were less than competent as farmers. Enter in two Native Americans who miraculously spoke English learned from Englishmen on fishing boats. One had even traveled to England and was much more proficient in the language. They taught the group (now officially called Pilgrims after a pact that united the saints and strangers) and by the following autumn harvest, the fields yielded enough for them to store food for the coming winter.

Of course there would need to be a celebration. The Native Americans were invited and it is said that 90 came. The celebration lasted for three days! But what about that thankfulness?

One story I found said that the Pilgrim Governor, William Bradford, who had ordered feast and prayer put five corn kernels on each plate and said that each person should share five things they were thankful for.

So, what were they thankful for? Political correctness aside, it was for a God who had supplied their needs, saw them through hardship, and provided a place in which to express their worship without fear of reprisal.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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