Those who believe that if you hang on to your clothes long enough they come back into fashion have been hanging on quite a while to see Plymouth Rock-type knickers come back into style for adults, but they are certainly and finally back, if only for women this time. It makes me wonder if that's really what our forefathers wore to the first Thanksgiving -- those seasonal novelty candles shaped into little Pilgrim boys would have us believe so. This year I decided to sort out this kind of perpetuated notion about the Pilgrims, and separate the myths from the facts. From the resulting quiz you can determine if you are a history buff, a good buff, or a real turkey when it comes to the story of the first Thanksgiving -- mark these true or false: 1. Our Pilgrim Fathers were Puritans who, because of their religious preferences, were granted a royal charter to emigrate and colonize New England. 2. When the Pilgrims contemplated coming to the New World, they considered settling in Guyana, which Sir Walter Raleigh had described as a potential El Dorado. 3. The advice and assistance of Captain John Smith was enlisted while the Pilgrims were planning their departure. 4. Croquet was among the entertainment at the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving. 5. Thanksgiving was primarily a religious holiday for the Plymouth Pilgrims. 6. Pumpkin pie was concocted in honor of the first feast, signifying the Pilgrims' new home by the mixing of the New World vegetable with Old World pastry know-how. 7. The Pilgrims "invented" Thanksgiving. 8. Thanksgiving became an annual November event. 9. Because the New World was thought of as a haven where they could create a kind of Zion, these settlers felt themselves to be making a pilgrimage; hence they referred to themselves as "Pilgrims."
Answers immediately below.
Here are the answers to the quiz just above:
1. FALSE The members of the first permanent colony in New England were Separatists, slightly more radical than the Puritans, yet in sympathy with them. They made up about a third of those who arrived on the Mayflower. Their beliefs and practices were not sanctioned by the Crown; after a decade of exile in Holland, they won permission to colonize under the sponsorship of the London Company. They set out for Virginia, but seas swept them to Cape Cod Bay, where they founded New Plymouth, outside the constraints of their sponsors -- hence the covenant of self-government described in the Mayflower Compact. New Plymouth never did secure a royal charter.
2. TRUE Raleigh's descriptions were attractive, but the Pilgrims were concerned about tropical diseases and the proximity of Spanish settlements. Dutch companies proposed their settling in New York (New Amsterdam) or New Zealand, but Virginia offered the advantage of previous, successful English settlements that the Pilgrims wished to remain near to, yet distinct from.
3. FALSE Smith offered his services, but was turned down, and wrote that the amount of money they saved by not hiring him might cost them their lives. In 1624, in effect, he ate his words when he visited and recorded favorable impressions of the Plymouth.
4. TRUE Stool-ball, enjoyed by both women and men (although only five of the 55 survivors were women), was a form, if rudimentary, of croquet.
5. FALSE No record of any religious service exists, as this was more a feast and recreation, which lasted not one but three days.
6. FALSE Dried wild fruits, such as gooseberries, plums and strawberries, encased in dough -- but not pumpkin pies -- were served. In subsequent years pumpkins from the Indians' seeds were a base for sauces, breads and pies. Cranberries, though plentiful, were not used until later -- and then in the form of a steamed pudding.
7. FALSE The concept of thanksgiving days was an Anglican tradition, but the Pilgrims may have been inspired by an event celebrated in their first home away from home -- Leyden, Holland, fetes October 3 in thanks for the deliverence of the town from the Spanish invasion. Actually, the Pilgrims did not even celebrate the first New England Thanksgiving. That distinction goes to the colonists with John Popham at Monhegan, Maine, who ate, drank and were merry just in time -- for none survived the winter of 1619. The Wampanoag Indians, who attended what's usually considered the first (Pilgrim) Thanksgiving, thought it their own customary harvest feast of harvest time, and arrived prepared to entertain and bearing food. The B.Y.O.V. (venison) gesture was much appreciated by the hosts, who were outnumbered 90 to 55.
8. FALSE Some years were bleak and no such occasion was observed; other years there were several. The Pilgrims' initial feast began on December 11, 1621, but such holidays were observed in other colonies and at various times of the year. The first public observance was on February 22, 1630, in Boston, but the focus was on the arrival of friends and supplies from the homeland. George Washington used such an occasion to issue a proclamation giving thanks for the new Constitution in 1789, and by Lincoln's time a national day was set -- the last Thursday in November. To distinguish between the fourth and the last Thursday in November, FDR chose the former -- which, most years, would extend the Christmas buying season. This secular holiday is not even unique to Americans, as Canadians have one; and since the 1900s some Latin American countries have joined in the feast day event.
9. FALSE Among their contempories the so-called Piligrims were known as the "Old Comers."The popular terminology for the Plymouth settlers was coined two centuries later by a society honoring these forebears. in 1820, in a speech to the group, Daniel Webster referred to "our Piligrim Fathers," as they have since been called.