The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621.
Attenders included the 50 surviving Pilgrims (out of the original 100) and 90 Native Americans who were invited as guests.
The feast was cooked by the four adult Pilgrim women who survived (thirteen out of eighteen wives had died the first winter), along with young daughters and male and female servants.
The Pilgrims were grateful that half of them had survived the first winter. (The mortality rate at Jamestown the first winter was 80-90%.)
They were grateful for the good relationships with the local Native Americans, especially Squanto and Massasoit.
Squanto had been taken as a slave to England (where he learned English) and when he returned to his home, his tribe had all died of small pox.
Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to grow Indian corn and to use the natural resources around them for food, as well as serving as an interpreter for them.
Massasoit was the leader of the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans, who had given food to the colonists during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient.
They were grateful that they had the freedom to worship as they wanted. They had emigrated to the Netherlands for freedom of worship–they were persecuted in England for not belonging to the Church of England. Life in the Netherlands was very hard and they found it difficult to keep their English identity.
In the new world, they were free to organize their church as they wished, without bishops and without having to acknowledge the king or queen of England as the Head of the Church–the only one entitle to that title was Jesus Christ.
Their worship services consisted of preaching, teaching, singing and free praying–they had no use for the 16 centuries of established liturgical traditions that made up the worship services in the Church of England.
Our church government and our worship services follow in their tradition.
We should be very grateful for their example.
I have found the book The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel to have a fascinating amount of information on what the Pilgrims really went through. Some of the material can be found at Light and Glory 1st Thanksgiving.