The Pilgrims who established the first Thanksgiving Day were in search of the freedom to practice their faith after being persecuted, arrested and fined for their form of Christianity. After fleeing England, their beloved mother country, and a ten-year sojourn in Holland, these so-called “separatists” prayerfully decided to depart for America to find what the governor of Plymouth, William Bradford, called “freedom of religion for all men.”
There were 102 Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower who suffered the 67 days of rough sailing before they finally landed at Plymouth Bay in November, 1620.
After indescribable hardships, by March, 1621, less than a year after arriving, only 51 of the original 102 remained alive. Fortunately, some Native Americans taught the Pilgrims survival skills in this new land, and at the end of their first harvest, they decided to hold a feast of celebration and thanksgiving to God for their harvest, newfound friends, and freedom to worship as their hearts desired.
Now, almost 400 years later, let us reflect on the sacrifice of these brave souls who valued their freedom of religion above all security and comfort and have bequeathed to us this gift.