Thanksgiving is more than a big feast

Published 3:13 pm Wednesday, November 22, 2017

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, our minds turn to the Pilgrims at Plymouth and the heritage they passed on to us. While that heritage — remembered for 396 years — includes a bountiful Thanksgiving feast that lasted four days, it is much more.

A pilgrim has been defined as “a traveler who is on a journey to a holy place.” That group who landed at Plymouth in 1620 fits that definition. Leaving England, they crossed the Atlantic at the worst time of the year in search of a place where they could live out their religious faith without being restricted by law or persecuted.

Before landing at Plymouth, those weary Pilgrims, while still aboard the Mayflower, entered into an agreement known as the Mayflower Compact. That agreement established certain basic principles that became foundational for government in the Plymouth Colony.

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Self-rule was one of the major principles. Since they were beyond the limit of British, or any other, law, they determined to make their own laws and govern themselves accordingly.

Recognizing that, at times, there would be disagreements, they agreed and established a basic principle that the majority would rule. That principle implied that the minority would accept and live by the will of the majority.

A third principle, and maybe the most important one, is: putting aside rank and privilege, they agreed that all were “created equal in the sight of God.”

The Mayflower Compact, signed by 41 Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower on Nov. 11, 1620, became “the first framework of government established…in the United States.” Later, that short document, consisting of 195 words, came to be “recognized as the foundation of the … Constitution” of the United States of America.

After a terrible winter of suffering and death that took almost half of the colony and after the first bountiful harvest, the Pilgrims, recognizing the goodness of God, celebrated with a big feast that became the basis of our Thanksgiving. But the heritage given to us by the Pilgrims at Plymouth is much more and a big feast.

Howard Coop is a retired minister, author and religion columnist that contributes regularly to The Jessamine Journal. He can be reached at howardcooop@