We all know the story of the history of Thanksgiving right? I grew up acting it out in school. We made the paper bag vests, and half of us were natives, and the other half were Pilgrims. The Pilgrims had a hard winter, and the first year they had a good crop they threw a big party and invited the local natives. But is that the whole story, or is there more to this homeschool history lesson?
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Getting ready for the history of Thanksgiving lesson
So I sent the kids out to get figures for me. I said, “I need three distinct groups. I also need one group to have kids in it.” This is what they came back with.
They were laughing their heads off. I gave in. So, here goes our history of Thanksgiving lesson with Batman. No, not my son Batman, lego Batman* (I like this set because it has both Superman and Batman), Lego Chima* (I like this set because it has lots of figures), Lego Monsters*, Lego Friends*(Princess likes this set because it comes with a girl and TWO animals), and Guardians of the Galaxy*. I apologize right now.
The history of Thanksgiving, who are the groups involved?
Let’s start off with the difference between Separatists and Puritans in the Church of England. Without this information, the rest of the lesson is not going to make much sense, they are two very different things.
Puritans wanted to Purify the Church of England. They thought of themselves as the sugar that makes the tea better. It dissolves into the tea and sweetens the whole thing. It also makes tea into a horrible sludge and undrinkable, but for some reason, people still try to serve it to me like that.
By contrast, Separatists thought the Church of England was a lost cause, and too political, and they should totally throw the whole thing out. They were going to create their own church all by themselves. This distinction is important because we often talk about the Puritans and we really mean Separatists.
Before we can even talk about Thanksgiving, we need to talk about Holland
William Bradford is one of those Separatists. He lost his job because he refused to attend the Church of England. The other Separatists were also being spied on, so they decided to head over to Holland.
At first, Holland is awesome, see those happy smiling faces. Okay, you can’t see Batman’s face, but we’ll pretend he’s smiling.
It didn’t take long for the bloom to leave this rose. The Separatists were farmers, but they weren’t able to farm, and so they all had to go work in the factories. To make it even worse, the kids had to work. And in the eleven years they lived there the kids were forgetting how to speak English! Horrors! William Bradford wrote, “their children… were drawn away by evil examples into extravagant and dangerous courses.” So, there you have it, in 1600 parents were saying “This generation is wild and crazy and going to drive us all to ruin.”
Yep, we have it written down in 1600. Of course, it was also said my the Romans, so I guess parents always thought “Kids these days.”
Around this time, they heard about Jamestown. Jamestown was doing AWESOME. Not really, but in comparison to this place that was corrupting their kids? It sounded great. So, to the New World, they were going to go.
The formation of the Pilgrims
They loaded up in a ship sailed back to England. There they were joined by “The Strangers,” that’s what the Separatists called those not in their group. As you can see, they are very strange. The Separatists thought of themselves as pilgrims bound for a strange land, eventually, our history books just called the whole group Pilgrims, to make it easier I’m going to call them all that unless I need to talk about one group in particular.
The Pilgrims set out in two ships, the Speedwell, and the Mayflower.
But, the Speedwell was not seaworthy, so they sailed back to England. In the end, the Pilgrims set out with 30 sailors and 102 Pilgrims. 32 of those Pilgrims were children. Can you imagine how often the parents heard “Are we there yet?”
If you read,
So I stopped mid-sentence when I was last writing, and I have no clue why I wrote that. Continuing on.
They finally made shore late November, but before a single person set foot on shore they hammered out the Mayflower Compact (this document alone deserves its’ own lesson, but the kids weren’t ready for that yet, so another time). The big deal is they agreed to be self-governed and protect the rights of others.
Now they may have sighted land in November, but they didn’t actually get off the ship for 5 weeks. They needed a safe place to land, and so they sent out Miles Standish and he finally found the perfect site on December 26, 1620.
Now, here’s the question, why is December 26 a bad time to start a colony?
Why yes, that’s right, it means you’re past the growing season, and you’re right at the start of winter. Everything is harder, and as a consequence of their poor timing and so many other factors, half of the colonists died that winter. It got so bad the Pilgrims would go out at night to bury their dead because they were scared of the Natives being aware of their dwindling numbers.
But, God was looking out for them, and that spring they met Samoset. Samoset introduced them to Squanto and to Chief Massasoit. Chief Massasoit signed a peace treaty between his people and the Pilgrims. Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to survive in Massachusetts.
Because of the peace treaty with Chief Massasoit and the knowledge Squanto gave the Pilgrims, they brought in a bountiful harvest that fall. To celebrate Governor Bradford declared a time of Thanksgiving. They invited their allies, who brought some deer to add to the feast (and 90 more people, yikes, add some water to the soup, and bake a few more pies!).
But, they celebrated for three days with feasts and feats of strength. When I picture it, I see a bunch it rather like the Highland Games at the Renaissance Festival. A lot of bragging and going “Well you did okay, but watch me throw this log further….”
And that is my mostly historically accurate story of how we got to the first Thanksgiving.