TOP will be off today (well, except for this post, I guess) to honor the traditional U.S.* holiday of Thanksgiving, one of the four major U.S. holidays**. Thanksgiving commemorates the feast of the first successful harvest in New England by a group of English religious separatists who later came to be known as "the Pilgrims," from a term used in William Bradford's journal. Although not the first English settlement, Plymouth "plantation" (i.e., colony) would become the oldest continuously occupied English settlement in what was later the United States of America.
Although it's often said the Pilgrims came for "religious freedom," actually that's not true—they had previously fled England and settled in Leiden, in the Dutch Republic, where religious freedom was permitted. They departed the Dutch Republic because they were troubled that many of their children were "growing up Dutch," you might say. Although their religious observance was an imperative, they also wanted to preserve their English cultural identity. Thanksgiving's significance is generalized now, but is historically based on religious and ethnic white Anglo-Saxon protestant (WASP) foundations.
The Pilgrims landed near what is now Provincetown Harbor, and located the site of Plymouth by expeditions on foot. The place had been a Patuxet village whose residents had been wiped out by diseases contracted from previous contact with Europeans. Not only did the Pilgrims find cleared fields (and the bones of many of the unfortunate previous residents), but they eventually encountered a Patuxet Indian, Tisquantum, a.k.a. "Squanto," who, remarkably, spoke English and had already been to England!
Squanto is one of the great characters of American history. After five members of his tribe were captured in 1605 to be taken back to England, Squanto volunteered to go along because he was curious. He ended up crossing the Atlantic six times in his life. He was the one who famously taught the Pilgrims to raise corn.
Although the Pilgrims' crossing was hard, only two passengers of the Mayflower died on the way; but nearly half of the 100 settlers died of hardship and disease during a terrible first winter in America. The first Thanksgiving, a harvest thanksgiving feast held in the Fall of 1621, was attended by approximately 90 members of the friendly Wampanoag tribe and their leader, Ousamequin, who was more commonly known by his title, Massasoit, which means great sachem or great chief.
Incidentally, wild turkeys were extremely wiley and difficult to hunt even for the Indians. It is most likely that only a few turkeys were eaten at the first Thanksgiving, either shared as a delicacy or reserved for the leaders' table. The main dish for most of the participants would have been meat pies made of venison (deer meat).
According to legend, one of the reasons the Pilgrims chose Plymouth was because of Plymouth Rock, a large flat-topped boulder in the shallows by the shore that could be used as a sort of dock for the smaller ship's launches from the Mayflower. Plymouth Rock is actually a sort of symbolic relic, first identified in extreme old age by the son of one of the Pilgrims who arrived on the Anne in 1623. There's no primary historical evidence that it was of any importance to the Pilgrims/Separatists, but it was venerated in the 19th century. The rock itself was split in half at least once, moved several times, and whittled down until as late as 1880 by people wishing to own literal "pieces of history." Although now not much of a boulder as a consequence, it rests at sea level back in its original location, housed in a columned reliquary, and is seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
Hope you have a nice day, wherever you are, even if today's not a holiday for you. We'll be back tomorrow with Part II of Carl's posts about the Panasonic GX7.
*In accordance with the Constitution, the United States does not have official national holidays. The government only has the authority to "give itself" holidays. Hence the term "Federal holiday."
**The other three are Christmas, New Year's Day, and Indepedence Day. Those four, plus Veteran's Day, are the only Federal holidays not observed on Mondays. Many States, local communities, and various religions (including Christianity, which is not the official religion of the United States) observe their own holidays.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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