Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims (Part 1) – The First Winter

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it hasn’t been sabotaged completely by consumerism and secularism.   Still, we can easily forget the sacrifice and the challenges the Pilgrims endured in order to create this new society we now enjoy (The above picture is a painting of the Mayflower in Plymouth harbor).

Here’s some facts from the first winter (1620-1621):

The Pilgrims left England August 5, 1620.

After one ship malfunctioned, and others changed their mind, 102 Pilgrims crowded on one ship, the Mayflower.

After several delays in England, they had 7 weeks of difficult sailing.

November 9, 1620 they first spotted land, which is now Cape Cod[1]

The exploration crew found abandoned corn (even though they had never eaten corn before).  This corn would sustain them that first winter.[2] God had providentially provided this corn to help the Pilgrims survive.

Facing a long, cold New England winter, their bodies were depleted from the long ship ride.  Scurvy and pneumonia began to set in among the colony.

Six died in December.  Eight in January.  Seventeen in February.  In one part of February, there were 2 to 3 dying a day.  At one point only 5 men were able to care for the sick.

They would bury the dead at night, so the spying Indians who were hostile wouldn’t see their decreasing ranks.

In March, 13 died.

When the worst was over, 47 had died, almost half the original number[3].

The winter of 1620-1621 almost ended the dream of a new society, but by God’s grace and the determination of these amazing pioneers, the Plymouth Colony prevailed.

This Thanksgiving, remember the origins of this holiday.   The story of Thanksgiving is more than a simplistic pause to say “thanks.” Thanksgiving is a story of survival, provision, destiny, loss, grace and miracles.    It’s still our story, and its unfolding in our lives.   Remember the Pilgrims, and reflect on God’s plan for your life too.

* Note:  This is a re-post from November 18, 2010

[1] Marshall, Peter, and David Manuel. The Light and the Glory. Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1977, 115-119.

[2] Marshall, 122.

[3] Marshall, 126-127.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s