Americans must never forget the origins of our national Thanksgiving holiday. Its spiritual significance is no longer taught in our nation’s public schools. In fact, most school children today are taught that Thanksgiving originated when the Pilgrims invited their Native American friends to dinner to thank them for their help in troubled times after the Mayflower landed. As with much of modern American revisionist history, there really is much more to the story.
A Tough Journey
The Atlantic crossing in the fall of 1620 had been an extremely difficult journey for the Pilgrims. For two months, 102 people were wedged into what was called the “tween decks”—the cargo space of the boat, which only had about five-and-a-half feet of headroom. No one was allowed above deck because of the terrible storms. This was no pleasure trip, but God sustained every one of the Pilgrims through the voyage.
God providentially protected His people. A little known fact about the Mayflower is that this ship normally carried a cargo of wine; and the wine spillage from previous voyages had soaked the beams, acting as a disinfectant to prevent the spread of disease.
During one terrible storm, the main beam of the mast cracked. Death was certain if this beam could not be repaired. At that moment, the whole Pilgrim adventure could very easily have ended on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. But, providentially, one of the Pilgrims had brought along a large iron screw, likely for a printing press. That screw was used to repair the beam, saving the ship and all on board.
Being in God’s Will
After sixty-six days at sea, land was sighted off what is now Cape Cod, Massachusetts. But that was not where the Pilgrims wanted to be. They had intended to establish their new colony in the northern parts of Virginia (which then extended north to the Hudson River in modern-day New York), but two factors interrupted their plans.
The winds had blown them off course, but they also later learned that some Englishmen who wanted to settle in the same Hudson River location had bribed the crew to take them off course.
Once again God was in charge and the Pilgrims landed exactly where God wanted them to be. Had they actually landed in northern Virginia, near the Hudson River, they would most certainly have been attacked by hostile Native Americans. Instead, there were no Native Americans on Cape Cod when the Pilgrims made landfall there. The land had already been cleared, and the fields had already been cultivated.
The Pilgrims barely survived their first winter. Only four families escaped without burying at least one family member. But God was still faithful. In the spring of 1621, He sent Squanto to the Pilgrims, an Indian who spoke their own language and who offered to teach them how to survive in this strange new land.
Squanto was one of the few Indians from that area who had not died in the plague. He had been captured as a young man and taken to England as a slave, where he mastered the English language. He was later freed and returned to his native territory shortly before the Pilgrims arrived. Probably the most important thing Squanto taught the Pilgrims was how to plant the Indians’ winter staple crop—corn.
The Pilgrims thanked God for this wonderful helper, but they also shared with Squanto the most valuable treasure they had brought with them from England—the Gospel. Squanto died within a year or two after coming to the aid of the Pilgrims, but before his death, Squanto expressed to the Pilgrims his faith in their God of Heaven.
Teach Your Children
The evidence of history clearly shows that on that first Thanksgiving Day, both the Pilgrims and the Indians were thanking God for His great goodness in providing for them all. In fact, with the help of Squanto, the Pilgrims had established a peace agreement with these nearby Indians that remained in place for a half century. As America is currently facing serious challenges both at home and abroad, let’s join together with countless generations before us in giving thanks to God for His blessings and for preserving our nation.
Let’s make sure that all our children and grandchildren learn Whose hand of protection has been over America ever since the Pilgrims’ arrival; and let’s all pray that He will send us revival.