It was the year 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans shared an autumn harvest feast that is widely acknowledged as the first Thanksgiving celebration in our country’s history. That means this marks the 400th year of celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday.
As we approach Thanksgiving 2021, we do so at a time when there is a lot to be concerned about in the world. Just turn on the news, and you will feel your blood pressure rise. However, worry is a powerful force. Left unchecked, worry can fill our headspace so much that we lose sight of some important reminders that we can learn from this cherished holiday.
No, I’m not just talking about turkey and football (as much as I love those things). I’m talking about three observations about the first Thanksgiving and the lessons taught, which can still impact us to this day, 400 years later.
#1 – Be Grateful
We’ve experienced a lot of loss over the past two years. Some of us have lost loved ones, experiencing profound sadness. The pilgrims knew something about that. When the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Rock in November of 1620, there were 102 passengers aboard, and just 57 of them would survive the first winter in the new world.
And, yet, despite the harsh conditions they found themselves in and the deep grief they were experiencing from losing loved ones, they still gathered to give thanks.
This Thanksgiving, as you sit around the dinner table, remember to give thanks. May we trade our worry for appreciation as we count our blessings. Doing so can lead to a change in perspective and will refresh your soul.
#2 – Be quick to lend a hand
Leading up to the original Thanksgiving, Squanto taught the pilgrims how to extract sap from maple trees, grow corn and catch fish. This Thanksgiving, cultivate that same spirit by being quick to lend a hand to those who you see in need. You will be surprised at how a giving and compassionate spirit will lead to joy and contentment in your heart as well.
#3 – Seek harmony with those around you
We are in a divisive society. People are quick to share their opinions on social media without realizing the real-world impact on relationships. As we look to the lessons learned from the first Thanksgiving, we are reminded to be peacemakers. Squanto facilitated a harmonious relationship between the Wampanoag tribe and the colonists that lasted over 50 years. While there were major cultural differences and language barriers, the relationships formed took priority over their differences, and they lived in peace and harmony for decades!
400 years later, we are in a different world, and yet, much remains the same. The values and lessons learned centuries ago serve as essential reminders for how to live today. Doing so can change our perspective and help us live with less of the things that bring us down and cause stress and more of the things that bring true joy, purpose, and contentment.
Before we go, we will leave you with something written by Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow. This is where most of our knowledge about the first Thanksgiving meal comes from:
“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest 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 to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. 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."
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!