When we think about Thanksgiving, we always think about the Pilgrims and the Indians having a big meal in the early days of the settlers in the Americas before the United States was the United States, in the 1600’s. There was a tradition in the early years of America, but it was not the last Thursday in November as we celebrate now to thank God for our blessings. In the early days, any time some random wonderful thing happened, it was time for a Thanksgiving feast. Finally, on October 3, 1864, Abraham Lincoln made a proclamation that everyone should celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of every November. Before that, each president decided each time when it should be celebrated. The tradition did begin, though with those pilgrims and Indians.
You see, the pilgrims had escaped Europe because of religious persecution. That is why they were called pilgrims. They were on a religious journey. They wanted the freedom to celebrate God how they saw fit, and they had been pushed all over Europe and really took to the idea of leaving Europe and beginning again in a new country.
The Pilgrims were not the first group to settle, but the first group to take a hold. There was a group before them who came to America to get rich. The first group was at Jamestown, West Virginia. They were businessmen who had come to America to make money. They really struggled!! They set up a store room where they could all go and take whatever they wanted as far as food, furniture, etc. It was all free. Once they built their houses, they really didn’t have any more work to do, so they began to get lazy. They stopped working. They slept all day, and if they needed something, they just went to the store room to get what they needed. It was the same thing as Socialism or Communism. Under Communism, the people had a job whether they went to work or not. They were given a house for free and food coupons for free whether they did a good job at work or not, so they just didn’t bother. They might show up for work, go down town for a cup of coffee, and then stay in town all day. At the end of the day, they clocked out and went home. It broke the economy, and that is why so many European countries left Communism. That is exactly the kind of thing that happened to the people in Jamestown, Virginia. They not only slept all day. They fought with the Indians. They were dying of pneumonia. They were dying of starvation and dying because of fighting with the Indians.
Some of them left the Americas and went back to England for help. They left the others, but when they came back, they couldn’t find the people from Virginia. There were a lot of theories about what could have happened to them. However, they were all gone. The only thing that saved the colony was Captain John Smith came up with the motto, “Those who don’t work don’t eat,” and he found the concept in the New Testament.
Just a few years after the colony in Virginia, the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, still in the 1600’s. They met an Indian named Squanto who they made friends with. Squanto had been to England and could speak English. He showed them how to plant and how to live in the new world. The Pilgrims made friends with the Indians unlike the settlers in Jamestown. The Pilgrims worked instead of sleeping all day unlike the settlers in Virginia. The first winter was hard. The winters were full of snow and very harsh. Some of them died of pneumonia. Not as many of them died of pneumonia as had died of pneumonia in Virginia. They couldn’t completely control that part, but because they had been acting like Christians, making friends and working hard, they were blessed instead of almost wiped out like the colony in Virginia. It makes a difference if you are trying to do the right thing and not acting selfishly, lazily, or fighting.
The Pilgrims were blessed with a bountiful harvest because they had made friends with the Indians and learned from them about living in the new world and had gone ahead a worked. They were overjoyed and gave a big feast inviting their new Indian friends. The Pilgrims knew it was because they had listened to God that they had such blessings, so they made it a feast dedicated to giving thanks to God. It didn’t happen on the last Thursday of November, but it did happen in the fall.
Now a days, the same holds true. Listening to God brings blessings to our lives. Doing or jobs and not being lazy brings blessings. Not fighting, but making friends brings blessings. This is a day of Thanksgiving to God for our blessings, and we need to remember the reason why those Pilgrims survived. They are a great example for the rest of us. Now, there is a specific day set aside every year to celebrate the blessings that God gives us, and let’s truly be thankful and understand that if we work hard, if we don’t fight, if we reach out and make friends and treat people right as God asks us to do, it makes a difference. Acting like Christians brings blessings.