Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mayflower Myths and interesting facts about Thanksgiving Day

This blog is published not far from Plymouth, MA where the Pilgrims landed in November 1620. There are many items about the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving Day which are misunderstood or have been muddled through-out history. When the Pilgrims made their first landfall on outer Cape Cod, the first Indians they encountered were the Nausets. The Nausets were not peaceful Indians and were very unhappy to see the Pilgrims as the only other Europeans they had encountered had taken men as slaves. That first encounter pushed the Pilgrims to go on to Plymouth instead.

When they arrived at Plymouth, they found signs of settlements, but no Indians. The winter was upon them and they struggled to make shelter and survive. Many were sick from the voyage and many died that first cold winter. In the Spring, they were barely hanging on when they greeted by an Indian named Samoset. He spoke english and that shocked the Pilgrims. Samoset was friendly which delighted the Pilgrims as they thought they would have to fight all Indians.

Samoset had spent time on the Maine coast and had learned english from the European fishermen who he encountered there. Samoset was the last surviving member of his tribe who had lived in the area where the Pilgrims landed. There had been a plague that had come along in the years between 1616 -1619 that had killed all the other members of his tribe and he was tasked with mourning for them as he alone survived by being away at that time.

Samoset took pity on the Pilgrims as they were pathetically sick and malnourished. He helped them and showed them what to eat, how to grow crops and where they could find food. He also brought them to meet Massasoit, the Chief of all the tribes in the area that comprised present day SE Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Massasoit heard from Samoset that the Pilgrims were good people and Massasoit asked them their intentions. They asked to be able to stay in Plymouth and maintain a settlement.

Massasoit told them that as far as he was concerned, the land in Plymouth was cursed. Everyone there had died, and his people viewed the land as a bad place. If the Pilgrims wanted that land, they were welcome to it. This occurrence of events paved the way to the first permanent settlement of a colony in America.

Here are a few other items you might not know one of which is there is no record of the Pilgrims eating turkey. There were turkeys in the woods here but likely they enjoyed a meal of venison as there were many deer here too. The Pilgrims enjoyed a first harvest after help from Samoset and other Native Americans.

Enjoy this Thanksgiving Day with family & friends. I hope that all give thanks for what you have been given and that all enjoy a good meal today in remembrance of the Pilgrims and their Wampanoag friends.

Mayflower Myths - From

The Mayflower brought the group of English settlers now known as the Pilgrims to North America. Leaving England in the fall of 1620, the Pilgrims were attempting to land near the mouth of the Hudson River, but instead ended up in Cape Cod Bay. Plymouth, the colony established there by the Pilgrims in 1621, became the first permanent European settlement in New England. The story of the Pilgrims and their harvest feast has since become one of best-known in American history, but you may not know it as well as you think. Discover the facts behind these well-known Thanksgiving myths!

Myth: The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and the pilgrims celebrated it every year thereafter.
Fact: The first feast wasn't repeated, so it wasn't the beginning of a tradition. In fact, the colonists didn't even call the day Thanksgiving. To them, a thanksgiving was a religious holiday in which they would go to church and thank God for a specific event, such as the winning of a battle. On such a religious day, the types of recreational activities that the pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians participated in during the 1621 harvest feast--dancing, singing secular songs, playing games--wouldn't have been allowed. The feast was a secular celebration, so it never would have been considered a thanksgiving in the pilgrims minds.

Myth: The original Thanksgiving feast took place on the fourth Thursday of November.
Fact: The original feast in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11. Unlike our modern holiday, it was three days long. The event was based on English harvest festivals, which traditionally occurred around the 29th of September. After that first harvest was completed by the Plymouth colonists, Gov. William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer, shared by all the colonists and neighboring Indians. In 1623 a day of fasting and prayer during a period of drought was changed to one of thanksgiving because the rain came during the prayers. Gradually the custom prevailed in New England of annually celebrating thanksgiving after the harvest.

During the American Revolution a yearly day of national thanksgiving was suggested by the Continental Congress. In 1817 New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom, and by the middle of the 19th century many other states had done the same. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a day of thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November, which he may have correlated it with the November 21, 1621, anchoring of the Mayflower at Cape Cod. Since then, each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939 (approved by Congress in 1941.)

Myth: The pilgrims wore only black and white clothing. They had buckles on their hats, garments, and shoes.
Fact: Buckles did not come into fashion until later in the seventeenth century and black and white were commonly worn only on Sunday and formal occasions. Women typically dressed in red, earthy green, brown, blue, violet, and gray, while men wore clothing in white, beige, black, earthy green, and brown.

Myth: The pilgrims brought furniture with them on the Mayflower.
Fact: The only furniture that the pilgrims brought on the Mayflower was chests and boxes. They constructed wooden furniture once they settled in Plymouth.

Myth: The Mayflower was headed for Virginia, but due to a navigational mistake it ended up in Cape Cod Massachusetts.
Fact: The Pilgrims were in fact planning to settle in Virginia, but not the modern-day state of Virginia. They were part of the Virginia Company, which had the rights to most of the eastern seaboard of the U.S. The pilgrims had intended to go to the Hudson River region in New York State, which would have been considered "Northern Virginia," but they landed in Cape Cod instead. Treacherous seas prevented them from venturing further south.

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