Happy Thanksgiving – How Well Do You Know Your History?

1. Did the Pilgrims depart from England to come to the new world? Well, yes and no.  They started in England, but spent about 14 years in Delftshaven, Holland before sailing back through Southhampton, England to America.

2. Did they head to America for freedom?  Not really – they went to Holland for freedom.  In fact, they found freedom in Holland, however, having left their wealth behind, life was difficult there, and the pressures on their children to abandon the family where great.  Wanting to keep their families focused on God and their religious practices, they decided to leave as a group and head for the new world.

3. Did many die on the trip over?  No, only two – one of the sailors who continually troubled the Pilgrims, and a servant named William Butten, who died from scurvy (should have drank his lemon juice.)

4. Did they land at Plymouth?  No, they initially landed at Cape Cod…however they were supposed to be landing down near the mouth of the Hudson where people had already established towns.  The plan was to land among an established people.  Instead they landed at Cape Cod, but due to the shallow water, were forced to head south to Plymouth where they agreed to establish their new homes.

5. Did they immediately celebrate Thanksgiving for a safe trip over? No, they worked hard to build shelters to get them through the winter, and to protect them from Indians.  Their first winter brought 47 of the 102 original voyagers (including Pilgrims and sailors) to their death due to sickness.

6. Where does the Thanksgiving feast come in?  As winter turned to spring, Samoset, an English speaking Indian arrived, who a week later returned with Squanto, another English speaking Indian from a tribe who had completely died from a mysterious illness.  It was Squanto who taught the Pilgrims how to plant, fish, and make medicine from the local herbs, and who introduced them to pop corn!  That fall, after the harvest, more than enough food was brought in to take them through the winter.  Thankful for Squanto, and thankful to God for bringing them through the winter and providing through the summer, they agreed to hold a feast which lasted three days (the first Thanksgiving was held in October).  They served wild turkeys and deer, vegetables, fruit, pies, and other treats, calling this celebration “Thanksgiving”.  The day began with prayers of thanksgiving, led by their pastor, William Brewster, followed by games, feasts, and expressions of thanks. Enjoy your Thanksgiving, and recall the good things around us…

© 2011, David Stelzl



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