As was the English custom, in the autumn of 1621, the 53 surviving Pilgrims gathered in Plymouth, Massachusetts to celebrate their successful harvest. Surprisingly, there are just two primary source descriptions of the “First Thanksgiving.” In Mourt’s Relation, Edward Winslow concludes his account of the Pilgrims feasting for three days with King Massasoit and his men with this observation, “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.”
And in Of Plymouth Plantation, giving thanks for the Pilgrims’ good health and the plentiful harvest, Governor William Bradford reports, “All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.” (Note that the Pilgrim Hall Museum has translated this passage from the original 17th century spelling.)
Abraham Lincoln inaugurated the annual Thanksgiving Day tradition in 1863, to give Americans a day off to reflect on our good fortunes, gather with family and friends to give thanks—and now, more than 150 years later, maybe watch a little football.
In recent years, however, we’ve seen a “War on Thanksgiving” as retailers try to get a jump on the holiday shopping season. While stores once opened in the pre-dawn hours on Black Friday, retail giants like Walmart, Target, Macy’s, and other major chains now open their doors on Thanksgiving Day. Of course, that means thousands of employees aren’t able to be with their families. Kudos to Costco for upholding its 30-year tradition and remaining closed on Thanksgiving.
In the spirit of that first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving. May your joy, happiness and success know no bounds!