Pilgrim's Landing at Plymouth

Thanksgiving, a Product of the Reformation

This year, we celebrate the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation. What does that have to do with America’s Thanksgiving holiday? In the essence of it, everything. America’s Thanksgiving holiday is a direct result of the Reformation. To be sure, many providential factors were involved in its fruition, but behind them all is the singular cause that the Reformation labored so fervently to proclaim and steward.

To trace the steps from the Reformation to the first Thanksgiving Day in America, we will look to William Bradford, the second elected governor of the Pilgrim colony, as our guide. Bradford was born in March 1590 in Austerfield, Yorkshire, England. He was born into a Puritan home, becoming acquainted with the Scriptures and demonstrating a true interest in Christ through the gospel at an early age. He began attending meetings of a Puritan congregation that met in the home of William Brewster in a nearby town. At age sixteen, Bradford became a full member of the church. Then, at age seventeen, owing to persecution, he fled his homeland with his beloved congregation to the Netherlands. Several from this Puritan church, including William Bradford, would later leave Holland and head to the New World, becoming the first “Pilgrims” to land on American soil. His personal, eye-witness record, along with letters and journal entries, regarding the events that led to the first Puritan settlement in America were compiled into a book entitled, Of Plymouth Plantation. It will be from this record that Bradford guides our steps.