“‘The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.’” The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: `When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb a year old without defect, together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil–an offering made to the LORD by fire, a pleasing aroma–and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine. You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.’” Leviticus 23:5-14 NIV

On the fourteenth day of the first month the LORD’s Passover is to be held. On the fifteenth day of this month there is to be a festival; for seven days eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. Numbers 28:16-18 NIV

Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover of the LORD your God, because in the month of Abib he brought you out of Egypt by night. Sacrifice as the Passover to the LORD your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name. Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste–so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt. Roast it and eat it at the place the LORD your God will choose. Then in the morning return to your tents. For six days eat unleavened bread and on the seventh day hold an assembly to the LORD your God and do no work. Deuteronomy 16:1-5 NIV

Party, celebrate, play, be festive – what sorts of scenes do you imagine? Do you think of good food, friends, family, neighbors, games, children, holidays, long conversations, respite from normal work, vacations? Our bodies are designed for rhythms. We need a regular rhythm of work, rest, play and sleep.

The first Thanksgiving celebrated in America by former Europeans was a harvest festival celebrated with Wampanoag people in the fall of 1621. It took place over several days and they wanted to give thanks to God for a successful harvest and for surviving a difficult first year in New England. They shared meals, played games and celebrated God’s provision of food for them for the coming winter.

The Israelites had a similar festival – it had two names – Passover or First Fruits. This annual celebration was designed to ensure that the Israelites would remember that God provides. First, God provided deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Second, God provided for the needs of the nation of Israel – daily food, clothing that didn’t wear out, and everything else they needed while in the desert for 40 years. Third, God provided them with the promised land – the food, the home, the future it would provide for the nation of Israel for hundreds of years. Passover or First Fruits was celebrated in the first month of the Hebrew calendar, it would be in March or April in our calendar. Sometimes it was called First Fruits because it took place when the very first of the barley harvest was gathered. The Nation of Israel was told to bring the very first stalks of their harvest – the first of God’s provision of food for the coming year – as an offering to God. This was a recognition, an acknowledgement, a thanksgiving to God for that provision of a harvest, for that provision of food for the coming year.

The Israelites – just like the Pilgrims – celebrated God’s provision – with a party, a celebration, a holiday from work, a time to gather with friends, family and neighbors. It was a time to play together, talk together, give thanks together, and talk of the future.

Does your family have an annual celebration, festival, party, or gathering? Do you play certain games, eat special foods, or have traditions that you do every year? Take some time this summer, to reflect, remember, and thank God for His provision for your family, for the special foods that are a part of our summer parties.