A Thanksgiving Tradition
The Five Grains of Corn
We know that the first Thanksgiving in 1621 was a time of plenty. But we usually don't realize that soon after that came a period which the Pilgrims called the starving time.
Food rations continued to decline through the winter of 1622. The Pilgrims had put much of their hope in the fall harvest of corn, but it was a failure. Later that year, a ship provided them the items they could trade with the Indians for food. Even with that, the food shortage was severe.
According to a popular myth, at one point in the winter of 1622-1623, they were surviving on five kernels of corn a day per person.
Experts say the story is likely not literally true, but it is symbolic of the hardships the pilgrims faced.
When the 102 religious dissenters left for the New World, they decided all goods and all work be shared in common. Possibly it was believed that the pioneers would have to shoulder burdens together to make the experiment work. In the early years, Governor William Bradford wrote that each family received a portion of the hunt and a peck of meal each week. Soon, after a difficult winter and a starving time, Bradford ruled that all colonists would be able to provide for their own families, rather than share the fruits of their labors. In 1623 after the switch to private farming, the pilgrims again celebrated bounty of harvest.
Celebrating with five kernels of corn:
Today the story of the five kernels of corn reminds us that the pilgrims and each one of us must sometimes sacrifice, but we are also thankful for blessings.
Five kernels placed by each one at the table can provide a way to remember the sacrifices of the past and to be thankful for our blessings. The modern celebration is to give thanks for one blessing with each kernel of corn.
In tradition, the first kernel is in thanks for autumn beauty. The second is in thanks for loving each other. The third is in thankfulness for family. The fourth is in thanks for friendship. The fifth kernel is in gratitude for the freedom that we find in the New World.
On Thanksgiving Day, take a few moments to be thankful for your blessings.