Attempting to refresh my memory concerning the first American Thanksgiving in 1621, I kept running into the gobbler—the bird we call “turkey.”  I learned more about this bare-headed, strange looking bird with wattle and iridescent plumage than I really needed to know.  Nonetheless, it is entertaining.

How in the world did this native North American bird come to be called “Turkey?”  Long before America existed, as a country, the Ottoman Empire, now the country of Turkey, imported guinea fowl from eastern Africa.  The guinea fowl came to be called the “Turkey-cock or Turkey-hen.” When settlers in the New World, began to send similar-looking birds back to Europe, they were mistakenly called turkeys.  The name stuck.

“Turkey” is not only used to identify the bird, which has become the centerpiece of the American Thanksgiving feast but is used in a variety of other ways.

Sometimes “turkey” is used to describe (unkindly) a loser, an uncoordinated, inept, clumsy person, someone who is generally uncool.

lets-talk-1Those of you who have ever bowled will know that getting three strikes in a row is called a “turkey.” It is thought this began as a Thanksgiving tradition in the 1800’s.  The first person to bowl three strikes in a row during the week of Thanksgiving received a live turkey to take home for dinner.

The turkey, a true native of America, was Benjamin Franklin’s pick for our national bird.

“Talk Turkey” simply means to speak plainly and get to the point.  So, let’s “talk turkey” about giving thanks.

In September of 1620, the tiny Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, England with 102 passengers and 30 crewmen.  The ship was approximately 100-110 feet long from stem to stern and 25 feet wide.  The passengers, 102 of them, lived in an area 50 X 25 feet with a 5-foot ceiling.  When I walked on board that life-size replica anchored in Plymouth harbor, it was impossible to imagine how 130 people could survive a 66-day storm-tossed voyage under such conditions.

Many of the settlers were religious separatist seeking a new home, where they could freely practice their faith.  They were willing to suffer anything for that freedom.

During the first bitter winter in the new world, most passengers stayed on board the Mayflower.  They suffered from exposure, scurvy, and contagious diseases.  Only half lived to see their first New England spring eventually learning from the Wampanoag Indian tribe how to survive in this strange new land.

In November 1621, Governor Bradford organized a Harvest feast to celebrate and give thanks to God for survival of the colony.  Nowhere is it recorded that this celebration was called Thanksgiving, nor do we know whether or not they ate turkey, but it did lay the foundation for our beloved American holiday.

In many American households, Thanksgiving has lost much of its original religious significance.  It has become merely a day of feasting, football, and family.

In 1941, President, Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill officially making the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving Day.


BUT—you can’t legislate Thankfulness.  You cannot force people to be thankful.  I think there must be a God-awareness in the heart in order to be truly thankful, and that awareness must be instilled from an early age.   Otherwise, the blessings of life and our American freedoms are taken for granted and are often squandered.

An old song tells us to:

“Count your blessings.  Name them one by one.

…Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

I woke up this morning counting my blessings.  When I crawled out of bed, I was thankful that I could stand straight without pain.  When I prepared breakfast, I thanked God I don’t have to worry about where next week’s groceries are coming from.  I looked around and found myself thankful for my sweet little home and the pretty bougainvillea blooming outside the window.  When I get in my little red car and head toward the church, I am thankful, there will be smiling faces there to greet me, and people will actually show up and listen to my Bible study.

There’s so much more for which to be thankful:  My salvation, my hope in Christ, eternal life, my family and friends, and YOU.  I am a retired minister, but I still have a congregation.  Thank you for reading each week.  I am honored.

Psalm 100:4, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him and bless His name.”

Again, in Psalm 119:164, the psalmist says, “Seven times a day I praise you…”

            In Psalm 34:1, he also says, “…His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”