As the number of casualties in the California fires rises… One wonders, how does one give thanks in this season?
It is good to remember the first Thanksgiving (William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation is a thorough account).
Here’s an excerpt from Bradford’s account of the sea passage and first winter:
September 6 . These troubles being
blown over, and now all being compact together
in one ship, they put to sea again with a
prosperous wind, which continued divers days
together, which was some encouragement unto
them; yet, according to the usual manner, many
were afflicted with seasickness. And I may not
omit here a special work of God’s providence.
There was a proud and very profane young man,
one of the seamen, of a lusty,
able body, which made him the more haughty; he would always be
condemning the poor people in their sickness
and cursing them daily with grievous execrations;
and did not let to tell them that he hoped to help
to cast half of them overboard before they came
to their journey’s end, and to make merry with
what they had; and if he were by any gently reproved,
he would curse and swear most bitterly.
But it pleased God before they came half seas
over, to smite this young man with a grievous disease,
of which he died in a desperate manner, and
so was himself the first that was thrown overboard.
Thus his curses light on his own head, and
it was an astonishment to all his fellows for they
noted it to be the just hand of God upon him.
[1620-1621] But that which was most sad and
lamentable was, that in two or three months’ time
half of their company died, especially in January
and February, being the depth of winter, and
wanting houses and other comforts; being infected
with the scurvy and other diseases which
this long voyage and their inaccommodate condition
had brought upon them. So as there died
sometimes two or three of a day in the foresaid
time, that of 100 and odd persons, scarce fifty remained.
All that to say, the First Thanksgiving did not come on the heels of a happy season. But in 1621, sure enough, Massasoit and almost a hundred other men joined the pilgrims in a three-day festival of feasting and games:
They began now to gather in the small harvest
they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings
against winter, being all well recovered in health
and strength and had all things in good plenty. For
as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others
were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass
and other fish, of which they took good store, of
which every family had their portion. 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 afterward write so ;
largely of their plenty here to their friends in England,
which were not feigned but true reports.
We won’t forget the suffering surrounding the first Thanksgiving, nor those currently in California.
But we will give thanks.