In 1621, the first Thanksgiving was held in Plymouth Colony between the Mayflower Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians. Historically, the first Thanksgiving was not the feast we enjoy today. Rather, it was a time when the Native Americans and European settlers gathered together to give thanks.
They were thankful for their bountiful harvest, the abundance of wild game and for fellowship. It wasn’t just a celebration – it was a joyful outpouring of gratitude for their many blessings.
The first Thanksgiving came after a hard year. During their first winter, more than half of the English settlers died, largely because of harsh weather and poor nutrition. These struggles followed a perilous 66-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The Pilgrims had left their homes and their lives for one thing – freedom against religious persecution.
William Bradford, a member of the Mayflower expedition, who was elected as Plymouth Colony’s second governor, kept a record of the journey across the Atlantic. Upon landing at Plymouth Harbor, he writes about his fellow travelers: “Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, 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.” After enduring more than two months of rough seas, stale food, cramped living quarters and seasickness, they gave thanks.
This year, as we celebrate another Thanksgiving in our great country, Arkansans, and all Americans, have much to be grateful for. We are so blessed to be part of this place and time in history – our history.
Just as the Mayflower Pilgrims gave thanks when they reached the shore and celebrated our country’s first Thanksgiving, we too should give thanks for the blessings we enjoy today. Thanksgiving teaches us to count our blessings in trying circumstances, and to find joy during the struggles and hardships of present day, both locally and nationally. It’s a day for Americans to realize how fortunate we are as a nation and to be grateful for our country’s brave heroes from the time of our inception to present day.
My favorite author, Henry Van Dyke, once said, “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”
As you gather together with your loved ones, remember to show your gratitude for friends, family, food and fellowship. Yes, here in Arkansas, we are truly blessed.