The Thanksgiving tradition in America dates back to the time of the Pilgrims who celebrated what is known as the first version of Thanksgiving.
Many of the Pilgrims were part of a Puritan sect known as Separatists and came to the New World to flee from religious persecution.
After 66 days crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth in November 1620 although they were aiming to land in Cape Cod.
"Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land," wrote Governor William Bradford about their arrival in the book Of Plymouth Plantation, "they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element."
However, during their first winter at Plymouth, many Pilgrims suffered from the cold snowy weather which brought with it disease to a colony that was trying to establish its settlement. Between December and March, scurvy, pneumonia, and a virulent strain of tuberculosis severely reduced the groups population. Of the 104 who came on the Mayflower, less than 50 survived past the first winter.
Then in April, an Indian named Samoset came into the camp and greeted the settlers by saying, Welcome! in English. He later introduced the Pilgrims to Massasoit, chief of the neighboring Wampanoag tribe, and to Squanto, last known survivor of the Patuxets.
Squanto had learned English when he was in England, haven been captured by and forcefully taken there by Capt. George Weymouth. He became a key help to the survival of the Pilgrims. He taught them how to plant corn seeds with fish so the decaying fish could serve as fertilizer. He also showed them how to stalk deer and the best places to fish for eel.
When the fall came, the Pilgrims were no longer starving.
To celebrate, they held a harvest festival giving thanks to the goodness of God. The Pilgrims invited Massasoit who brought along 90 braves. They all feasted on roast duck, roast goose, clams and other shellfish, eels, white bread, corn bread, leeks, watercress, wild plums, dried berries, and venison which came from the five deer the braves brought.
But during the following year, they shared their stored food with new settlers so they ran short of food.
In 1623, there was a drought which caused the much of the crops to die. Governor Bradford called for a day of fasting and prayer. God was faithful and soon answered their prayers by sending rain.
Bradford proclaimed November 29th as a day of Thanksgiving. This is considered to be the actual roots of the Thanksgiving Day Americans celebrate today.
May Thanksgiving Day be a time when we first think of what God has done for me rather than when we think of what we can do for God. And living drunk off the grace He has given us, may we give thanks and praises to His name. The Lord bless you and your families this Thanksgiving.
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17