What we commonly refer to as the first Thanksgiving was actually a Harvest Home festival, which was as much partying as the Puritans were willing to allow. They didn’t even celebrate Christmas because they felt it was too pagan. To the Pilgrims, a Thanksgiving Day was a day in church thanking God for His blessings.
I’ve been able to trace my ancestry directly to eight Mayflower passengers: Francis Cooke, Isaac Allerton, Mary (Norris) Allerton, Mary Allerton, John Tilley, Joan (Hurst) (Rogers) Tilley, Elizabeth Tilley, and John Howland. Three of them, John and Joan Tilley, and the elder Mary Allerton, did not survive the first winter. I am also descended from Robert Cushman, who stayed behind in Leiden and came over later. I am descended from all of them through my Warren-Harrison-Washburn line. William Brewster also appears in my tree because his daughter Fear later married Isaac Allerton.
On this day of thanksgiving, I take a few moments to honor my Mayflower ancestors and the other 94 passengers for their courage in the face of immense hardships during their journey from England and their first winter in the New World, which 50 of them did not survive. I also honor them for their courage in standing up for their beliefs through persecution in England and conflicting lifestyles in Holland. I’m proud that their blood flows through me.