As tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, I thought it appropriate to post a brief essay on who the Pilgrims were, and what the true meaning of Thanksgiving is. The true meaning of this annual remembrance has nothing to do with the Macy’s parade, football, gorging our bodies while in the presence of relatives that we have not spent time with over the past year, or Black Friday deals.
Our Thanksgiving holiday is a remembrance of the first harvest celebration of the Pilgrims, a group of religious separatists who arrived in the wilderness of Massachusetts in 1620 on the ship the Mayflower.
The Pilgrims had fled from their native England to Holland to gain religious freedom from the Church of England. The Pilgrims were Reformed; that is to say they were what we would today term Calvinist in doctrine. Though it was opposed to the Roman Papacy, they believed that the Anglican church was not pure enough, and thus they separated from it.
The city of Leyden in Holland allowed them the liberty to practice their faith, but was deemed to be too morally permissible and worldly by some. After much thought, they decided to make a voyage to the new world and plant a colony in the wilderness, where they would be free from the taint of the world!
This is why the Mayflower set sail. There were some non-separatists who sailed with the Pilgrims, including the crew. When they reached Plymouth Rock after an arduous, voyage they voluntarily covenanted together to form the Mayflower Compact –a pioneer in the way of written constitutions.
The first winter was very hard on the Pilgrims, and many of them died. In the spring of 1621 they planted, and God gave the increase.
In the fall of 1621, they held a harvest festival. This was the first Thanksgiving. It appears that at this feast they ate crops, wild game, and fish. Several friendly Indians joined them. The men also shot guns during the days of celebration. (In fact, the Pilgrim males usually carried their arms with them to church).
The story of the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving is a story of religious purity, agrarianism, and manly courage. Perhaps that is why modern Americans do not think much about them on this (now commercialized) day to remember them.
In 1789 George Washington, in his capacity as President of the United States, issued a proclamation designating November 26, 1789 as a day of Thanksgiving. The proclamation began with: “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God…and continued to thank God for the establishment of America and to encourage Americans to “unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions…”
But this Thursday most people will gather with family that they usually spend little time with. They will eat a huge meal, generally one where none of the food items have come from their own land or woods. The men will likely not be involved in target shooting as the Pilgrim Fathers were; instead they will gather around the glowing screen in the living room and watch multimillionaire Negroes play football.
The true meaning of the Thanksgiving celebration has been lost to the masses of Americans, including those who claim to be Christian. Ironically, most churches who do celebrate the Pilgrims today massively disagree with them on core doctrinal issues –including predestination, election, and separation from the world. Tomorrow, be like me and choose to remember the Godly, agrarian, religious separatist, gun owning white males who gave us this day!
© Copyright 2016 by Joseph Charles Putnam of Orange County, Indiana. All rights reserved.