The First Thanksgiving: A Joyful Hope

Re-blogged from my blog over at

This year, I’m going to make it a point with my children to focus on the first Thanksgiving and the role that God had in it.

The First Thanksgiving

In September 1620, the Pilgrims left England for the New World. The trip took over two months and was very hard on the passengers (just over 100 people). Enduring the elements and the storms of the open sea, the Pilgrims held fast to their mission and relied on Divine Providence to survive.  They finally arrived in what is now Massachusetts at the end of November 1620. After several days searching for a suitable place to disembark, they chose what they called Plymouth Rock on December 11. Before stepping foot on land, they signed the Mayflower Compact, which is referred to as America’s first document of civil government. 

The Pilgrims leaned heavily on prayer, and that was the first thing they did upon arrival. Unfortunately, they were not ready for the realities of a Massachusetts winter, and almost half of them succumbed to starvation or sickness before the spring of 1621. It is said that at one point their daily food ration was down to five kernels of corn each. But then- Hope. A trading vessel arrived, and the Pilgrims traded beaver pelts for corn. In the summer of 1621, assisted by Native Americans, most notably Squanto, who had accepted Jesus and become a Christian thanks to a Spanish monk after being captured and sold into slavery in Spain, the Pilgrims’ crops were plentiful. Squanto taught them to grow corn, use fertilizer, kill deer and fish. Governor William Bradford decreed December 13, 1621 a day of feasting and prayer so that the colonists could show gratitude that they were still alive. It was a three-day feast! Of Squanto, Governor Bradford said that he was “a special instrument of God for good beyond their expectations.”

Below are the joyful words of Pilgrim Edward Winslow, describing the first Thanksgiving.

“Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling so that 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… served the company almost a week… Many of the Indians [came] amongst us and… 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… And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet BY THE GOODNESS OF GOD WE ARE… FAR FROM WANT.”

I just love those words from Mr. Winslow so much! You can practically see him smiling when you read them. How joyous and grateful the Pilgrims must have been! They were faithful to God and He provided for them. What a great message to share with our kids as we gather around the Thanksgiving table this month, almost 400 years later! God’s love never changes.

Here are some of my favorite verses to share with your kids this Thanksgiving.

Psalm 95:1-6 – O Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, And a great King above all gods, in whose hand are the depths of the earth; the peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it; and His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

Colossians 3:15 – And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

As Christians, we are to be thankful and should be joyous all throughout the year, not just for one Thursday in November, but doesn’t reading the story of the Pilgrims just make your heart smile? I know it does mine, and that’s what I’ll be sharing at the table this year.


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