Celebrated annually on December 22nd in the US, the Forefathers Day is observed to remember the historical landing of the forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts in the 16th century. Did you enjoy the “long time ago” stories from your grand Pop or grand Mom? Forefathers Day reminds us of one such incident a few hundred years ago!
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Why Forefathers Day?
The story of the brave forefathers who sailed across the Atlantic beings with the religious persecution in England and the protest by the religious fellowships of Brownists or Separatist Puritans. These groups escaped to the Netherlands and later planned to move to the US territory. Economic constraints, lack of employment, retaining their cultural identity as well as scope for missionary activities were the main reasons cited for their departure.
Amidst the uncertainties of the new world, the stories that they heard regarding the violent natives, the possibility of starvation and diseases, the hazards of the sea, and the political turmoil, the pilgrim fathers set sail into the unknown. Speedwell, a 60-tonne vessel, and the Mayflower were the ships assigned for the journey to the US. Speedwell faced troubles during the journey due to leakage and the passengers were packed into the Mayflower. After a turbulent journey, the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock on December 21st, 1630, and the rest is history.
The Forefathers Day was established by the Old colony club on 22nd December 1769. The club was primarily a group of the descendants of the Mayflower who proudly remembered the courage of their forefathers. A mishap while matching the Gregorian calendar date led to a miscalculation of the historical date as 22nd December. If the date falls on a Sunday the pious members of the club celebrate the event on the following day.
On Forefathers day the members don top hats and begin their march as early as 6:00 am to the top of Cole’s hill, near the statue of Massasoit, a Native American Chief. It is followed by a reading from the proclamation that honors the pilgrim fathers and the ritual firing of the canon. The members then proceed to a breakfast of succotash made according to the traditional pilgrim recipe of broth with chunks of fowl.
By the 1880s, Forefathers day was observed by people all over the country from New England to Los Angeles with enthusiastic participation from churches and various organizations. The Forefathers Day celebrations were accompanied by annual meetings, formal meals popularly called the “New England Dinners” with speeches recollecting their history and values! .
Right after the civil war and the declaration of Thanksgiving Day, the Forefathers Day celebrations begin to tame down. By the 1900s the Forefathers Day history and celebration were absorbed into the thanksgiving narrative and were dropped by many regions. While all the spotlight is on Thanksgiving celebrations, Plymouth remains loyal to its history and continues to pay its tribute to the forefathers who held on to their values despite the persecution and trials they faced.
How Can We Observe Forefathers Day:
- A Trip To The Past With Fine Dining
Organize a New England Dining experience for friends and family with the menu used during the annual meetings of the Forefathers Day celebration.
- Dig Into The History
Hit the online resources and historical books to know more about the pilgrims and the history of the Nation.
- Thanksgiving With The Forefathers
Creating awareness of this day’s history is necessary to revive the fading importance of the Forefathers Day celebration. Share your photos and posts on social media using #Forefathers Day
Interesting Facts On Forefathers Day:
Here are some interesting facts surrounding Forefathers Day!
- The settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts is one of the first permanent colonies in New England.
- Mayflower was primarily a cargo ship and was the only alternative when Speedwell was damaged. A child was born on the Mayflower, and he was named Oceanus.
- Only 51 passengers out of the 102 survived in the first year of their settlement.
- After landing on the shores of Cape Cod by mid-November it took around one month to sail to the mainland.
- Most of the early settlers were known as the Pilgrims. The first recorded use of the term was found in William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation. It was inspired by the Biblical imagery found in the book of Hebrews.
- During the revolution, the Old Colony Club had a dispute and were divided into Loyalists and Patriots. Hence the celebrations were abandoned from 1776-1790
- The Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick has called for a state commission to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the pilgrims landing in 2020.
History of Forefathers Day:
The first celebration of the Forefathers day dates back to December 22nd in 1769. In the 1920 Forefathers day celebration, President Woodrow Wilson announced 21st December as the Pilgrims Day.