The story of Thanksgiving Day is pretty well known by everyone who live in the United States. We all know that the tradition started with a group of children, men and women who arrived to an area near to Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1620 aboard of the vessel Mayflower. This group was fleeing from England where they were persecuted accused of separatists because they were claiming freedom of religion.
The group decided to settle on that area because the soil was rich in resources and because it offered an attractive harbor. But the first year was disastrous, the crops didn’t prosper as they were without many of the resources they used to have in England, and therefore they were unable to cope with the first winter in the “New World.” A group of local native Indians came to help the Pilgrims. They taught the strangers how to plant and harvest crops and when winter came, the Pilgrims had already cultivated and preserved the corn as well as fruits and vegetables. They had learned to pack fish in salt and prepare smoked meat. Knowing they had overcome so many misfortunes, the Pilgrims decided to celebrate for having survived and for the lessons they learned. In 1621, a year after their arrival, they decided to have a Thanksgiving meal shared between the Pilgrims and the native Indians. The celebration included mostly poultry (wild turkey) provided by the Pilgrims, and deer meat that was provided by the Indians.
This is the story, but what are the teachings behind the story? What do we learn from this story that could be applied to our daily life in our country in 2014. What is the meaning of Thanksgiving Day in the midst of racial tensions in Ferguson, strong political divisions in Congress and war in the Middle East? For me there are six important teachings I see in the story of the first Thanksgiving Day that may help us to celebrate a meaningful Thanksgiving today in our country.
Here are the teachings…
- The first Thanksgiving table was an expanded and extended table beyond individuals, nationalities, races and social levels.
- The first Thanksgiving gathering of Pilgrims and Indians together remind us of God’s equal and abundant grace for all God’s children.
- The first Thanksgiving reunion was an open and diverse community reunion, not a closed group reunion.
- The first Thanksgiving celebration was the opportunity to celebrate community achievements rather than a private party to praise individual successes.
- The first Thanksgiving opportunity is a reminder that we are better if we work together for the common good of the community using the gifts of each individual.
- The first Thanksgiving Day is a reminder that we cannot feel really thankful if we do not share our thankfulness with others
- I hope this reflection may help us to understand the meaning and to put in practice the teachings of this wonderful American tradition.
Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving Day!
Rev. José Luis Casal, General Missioner
The Presbytery of Tres Rios
Presbyterian Church (USA)
1201 W Wall
Midland, Texas 79701
Office – (432) 682-5297
Cellular – (432) 638-3564