For my session today at Tappedin, I have work diligently on my Web pages for educators who would like to know more about Thanksgiving and the history of Massachusetts in the time period of the 1620s. As a triple Mayflower descendant, I enjoy learning about these people and the struggles and hardships they faced in the new world.
As family life in this country changes, it is often the case that we only gather together in the fall to celebrate family on the fourth Thursday of November.
But, what does this have to do with the life of those who came to America sailing from England and Holland to seek a new life? The real answer is... not much.
The people we call "Pilgrim" were devoutly religious and would be surprised to find out that the life they led in Plymouth, MA has been romanticized and has become highly controversial.
There are only two primary sources to rely upon for information about the feast of the fall of 1621. One is William Bradford’s diary “Of Plymouth Plantation” and Edward Winslow’s “Mourt’s Relation”.
This gathering, with food and games was a secular celebration of harvest attended by 50 colonists and 90 native people. After the first winter, where over half of those who came on the Mayflower died, only four married women and five adolescent girls survived to prepare the food for this one-time event. (Think about that while you prepare to cook your turkey!)
A Puritan day of thanksgiving was considered to be a day of prayer spent in a church and had nothing to do with this feast. The native people also gave thanks every day to the Creator for the life they were given.
Today’s event is considered a day of civic authority and has been in the making since the late 1830’s or early 1840’s. Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday during the Civil War as he hoped it would further unity of our country.
Today, teachers, with limited time and resources, have a difficult road ahead of them to accurate depict history and to relate it to life in modern times. Some schools do not allow any celebrations or mention of celebrations during school time. What should teachers focus on?
· Lives of the Pilgrims (and the history of the time period)
· Oral history and traditions of the Native people
· Museums, monuments and symbols of history
· Be respectful and learn to say “thank you”
What will you teach and how will you do it?