Thursday, November 22, 2012

The First Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims were a hard-working people, but that did not mean that they didn’t rejoice. The Pilgrims were hard workers, but they were not workaholics. Because of their hard work, their rejoicing meant all the more. The less effort we put into our work, the less enjoyment we will get from our celebrating, and the less special it will be. Because the Pilgrims worked hard, they played hard. They feasted for a week, entertaining their 90 Indian guests for three of those days! They feasted like Christians. The Bible gives guidelines for this kind of rejoicing in several places. In Deuteronomy 14:22-29 it gives directions to the Israelites to give a entire tithe of their produce to a feast of celebration, and to buy with it “whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household”. In Deuteronomy 16:13-15 it commands the Israelites to “keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.” The Pilgrims reflected this much in their celebration, in the feasting for seven days, in inviting the sojourner (i.e. the Indians), in doing it in praise to God’s goodness, and in being altogether joyful.

We are told that the Pilgrims participated in a couple activities to celebrate, and I can say those that are mentioned are all things that I would enjoy. The first thing was going hunting. The main thing that is mentioned is hunting for waterfowl like ducks and geese, although Bradford adds that they hunted other things as well, like turkeys and deer. The Indians also brought five deer to the celebration that they had hunted. Another activity mentioned is the shooting of guns, most likely in competitions of marksmanship. And besides hunting and shooting, Winslow says that there were other recreations as well, which we can but speculate on. They might have had races, games, singing, and dancing. And then of course there was the feasting. In the several days that they feasted they ate the wild game they had shot, like the ducks, geese, deer, and turkeys; the fish, clams and eels they got from the sea; many vegetables such as squash, beans, onions, Indian corn; and native fruits such as cranberries and grapes. As Winslow wrote to those back in England, “And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

May we recover some of this intense gratefulness and joy this Thanksgiving, never forgetting Who we are thanking. 

-Peter Bringe
 DV

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