One of the Pilgrim Fathers’ most striking moments of thankfulness occurred the first Sunday after they reached North America. A scouting party of 16 men returned to the Mayflower with a good report about the land. The collective sense of relief spurred an impromptu worship service. As Bradford put it, “They fell upon their knees and blessed ye God of heaven.”
This scene was not an isolated incident. Bradford’s history of Plymouth references the giving of thanks no less than 30 times. The first Thanksgiving, rather than being an anomaly amid the drudgery of forging a new colony, fell within a rhythm of gratitude in the Pilgrims’ life.
Indeed, the first Thanksgiving may have been the 1621 observance of an annual English harvest festival known as Harvest Home. Some have noted this fact in attempt to deny the first Thanksgiving’s spiritual character. In actuality, it underscores the cyclical nature of thanksgiving in Plymouth colony.
Before the Pilgrims faced each day, they first turned to God in gratitude and intercession. The pattern persisted as half their company died that first winter and as crops failed the next year. Weekly, they took seriously observance of the Sabbath, making preparations each Saturday so Sunday could be spent in uninterrupted worship and rest.
How the Pilgrims' high view of providence allowed them to celebrate with gratitude, even after a disastrous year: https://t.co/CS8Xkw7tDr
— Christianity Today (@CTmagazine) November 28, 2020