The story has often been told of how the Pilgrim Fathers, landing in Plymouth in December 1620, faced such a hostile Winter that only 55 out of 102 survived. How a native American (Tisquantum), who helpfully spoke English, helped them to plant crops, hunt and fish in the new country. And how the eventual harvest of 1621 was so glorious, so abundant, that they could invite 90 native Americans to join them for a three-day banquet.
Certainly, the Pilgrim Fathers would have been wary of all harvest excesses they left behind in England. They approved setting days of prayer and thanksgiving on occasions but seemed to have resisted celebrating !
Yet, the backdrop of such misery and hunger in those first months must have heightened their sheer wonder at that first harvest. Surely, recollections of villages bringing in the sheaves and giving thanks to God that he had provided such abundance must have been stirred up in the Pilgrims' memories! What they had experienced in England many times before was now happening in their new land! They would survive.
We learn that the following harvest in 1622 was a poor one with much hunger as new colonists eked out limited supplies. In 1623 after planting, a drought began in May that continued into July and threatened to destroy the whole corn crop. Disaster loomed. An entire July day was devoted to prayer and fasting. It is recorded, that in the evening clouds appeared and rain fell. They were on their way to a second good harvest.
I know that historians talk about several influences (and complex ones) that lie behind Thanksgiving Day, but it is hard to believe that Harvest Festival in the old country, thanking God for all his goodness as harvest is gathered in, was not a major contributor. I like to think so! Let's go celebrate God's goodness this Thanksgiving Day. There is so much to be thankful for.