I love Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday all about eating and getting together, how could you not love it? As the years since the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving grow more and more, sometimes our understanding of the holiday dwindles down and our focus becomes more about getting the best Black Friday deals before we even have a chance to swallow our turkey bites. The memories of the long ago feast on Plymouth Plantation seems more of a sweet myth rather than a story of two groups of people coming together to celebrate life and God’s provisions.
The past few weeks I have been reading a book about The Truths and Myths About Thanksgiving to my class. I think I am safe in saying that this time reading together has been the highlight of our day for the past couple of weeks. We have been learning so much about the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people and myth busting our way through that first year in Plymouth. What hit me the most while reading this book was that these Pilgrim people were just your everyday people. None of them were military men, farmers, or real builders. They owned shops and tailored clothes. One of my students brought up the fact that starting an entire life in a completely new area had to have been even scarier since they didn’t really know what they were doing.
Ever since I was able to visit Plymouth Plantation this summer, it has been easier to really imagine what that first year for the Pilgrims was like. Small thatched houses to fit a large amount of people. No fire in their church because that was also where they kept the gunpowder. Sickness and death everywhere. Fear lurking around every corner. Without the help of the Native Americans, these people would not have made it. The friendship that they had in those first beginning years of the New England colony brought provision for the Pilgrims in ways I am guessing they couldn’t have ever imagined.
Sometimes it gets really hard to remember in our culture today why we celebrate the holidays we do. We are more concerned with taking the perfect Instagram dinner table photo and getting the funniest family picture and buying the best winter coat that will impress the most people (who don’t even really care anyway). The meaning of the holiday has slipped away along with the memories of the hardships of the first year on Plymouth Plantation. Out of his book, Of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford said, “All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.”
May this Thanksgiving week be time of reflection on our blessings from the simple to the grand. May we spend less time on our phones, and more time in conversation with those around us. May we try more cranberries just so maybe we can try to imagine being there on that first Thanksgiving nearly 400 years ago, and less Starbucks coffees to get us through Black Friday shopping. May we spend less time arguing over our differences and slamming those who disagree with us and more time building one another up and helping each other. May this holiday be a reminder that, like William Bradford said all those years ago, “Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light kindled hath shone unto many…”
I want to end this post with a fun Thanksgiving trivia. To answer the trivia question, simply comment below with your answer.
Q: What food was present at the first Thanksgiving but is rarely included in traditional Thanksgiving meals served today?