I feel cheated. Nobody ever taught us this fact in school, but from what I read, the First Thanksgiving was not a single dinner, but a three day harvest festival. THREE DAYS!
I thought nothing could be more wonderful than our Thanksgiving celebrations as a kid. I had a big family, and on Thanksgiving Day, they all piled into our tiny house and took a place at the dining room table that had so many leafs it stretched into the living room. Mom couldn’t find a table cloth long enough, so she bought several yards of just plain white double knit fabric (don’t judge me) and created her own.
I am embarrassed to admit that one time when I was a teenager, I made a centerpiece that was supposed to be a turkey. I crocheted a red head and neck and tacked on two shiny button eyes which, come to think of it, were so large he looked like he’d had his eyes dilated. Then I attached it by long straight pins onto the end of a pineapple laid on its side, as if its tail was in full fan. I book-ended it with two Mr. and Mrs. Pilgrim candles and that was that. The fact that I was a minor is the only thing that kept the “tackiness police” from carting me off. I have since sworn off “craft” projects. Obviously, not my ministry.
The star of Thanksgiving Day, of course, was the food. There was usually a tray of assorted crispy crackers and a cheese ball, olives and pickles to nibble on while the last minute preps were made. Mom’s turkey, roasted upside down low and slow, was so tender that no ceremonial carving was ever possible. Sometimes a baked ham showed up, too. Mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, two kinds of dressing (stuffing is for pillows), corn and green beans cooked down with bacon grease, broccoli and shells dripping with cheese sauce, Hawaiian sweet potatoes, jellied cranberry sauce, a lettuce and tomato salad (how’d that get in here?) and some of my sister’s yeast rolls to slather with butter. All that, and dad still wanted stalks of stringy celery to munch on. Go figure.
It’s funny how you can be almost full to the gills and still find room for a piece of pumpkin, pecan, or coconut cream pie. Or maybe German chocolate cake, black cherry salad, or a strawberry cream cheese jello dessert we all called “gook” . Maybe just one itty bitty piece of the pistachio fudge cake…OH! Is that butterscotch pie?
Let’s face it. The most amazing thing about Thanksgiving is leftovers, and we always had a bunch of them. So at some point we instituted something called “Second Day”. Anybody who couldn’t make it on Thanksgiving, as well as those who did, could show up on Friday to a fabulous feed. Whoever was lucky enough to be there on Friday could take Saran wrapped bundles of holiday goodness home with them to enjoy. To think the Pilgrims had three days, not one or two, fills me with a sense of “what might have been”.
Wow. Now the memories are really flooding back. As I was reading back over the traditional menu, I began to notice the textures and characteristics of the food. Some of it was protein. Some of it was comfort food that gave you that warm and fuzzy it’s-good-to-be-home feeling. Some of it was crunchy. And yes, everybody lined up for the sweets.
I got to thinking that our meal was somewhat like the Bible. No, really! God’s Word is meaty and like protein, it is important for growth and development. Hebrews 5:13-14 tells us how vital it is as a Christian to “graduate” from milk to meat. It will build your spiritual muscles, and like protein repairs cells, the meat of The Word, repairs broken hearts and lives.
Yes, there’s all kinds of comfort food in the Bible. Isaiah 40:11 says, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom…” What is more comforting than the thought of Jesus with one of his lambs snuggled up in his arms? You want comfort? Read the 23rd Psalm.
You know, there’s some crunchy stuff in the Bible, too… those instructions from the Lord that are a bit harder to chew on, and maybe hard to swallow. You know, like “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or maybe Matthew 5:44 …” love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you”. Oh, here’s a good one from the mouth of the Lord… “Vengeance is mine. I will repay.” How about if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. Romans 12:17-19. That can be a little hard to choke down.
And, of course, the sweetness of God’s Word cannot be overstated. Just ask David in Psalms 119 “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.”
The beauty of the Word of God is that all that goodness has been bound up in leather and can be carried home with you to dine on anytime you want. Who wouldn’t want that?
By now, it seems we’ve taken quite a trip. We started off at Plymouth Rock, detoured through my childhood, strolled through the Bible, and now we’ve almost arrived at Thanksgiving Day. This year, more than ever, I am thankful for my heritage and the people and traditions that built me. But even more than that, I am so very, thankful to the Lord Jesus Christ for all He’s done and continues to do for me. I know you have plenty of things to be thankful for, too; and remember, the Lord has already invited you to “come and dine”. Don’t be late. We’ll start without you