Colonial Christmas

Colonial Fair

Customs and Fashions in Old New England

attacks from the fierce savages, there was no public thanksgiving celebrated in either Massachusetts or Connecticut. It is difficult to state when the feast became a fixed annual observance in New England. In the year 1742 were two Thanksgiving Days.

Rhode Islanders paid little heed in early days to Thanksgiving—at any rate, to days set by the Massachusetts authorities. Governor Andros savagely prosecuted more than one Rhode Islander who calmly worked all day long on the day appointed for giving thanks. In Boston, William Veazie was set in the pillory in the market-place for ploughing on the Thanksgiving Day of June 18, 1696. He said his king had granted liberty of conscience, and that the reigning king, William, was not his ruler; that King James was his royal prince, and since he did not believe in setting apart days for thanksgiving he should not observe them.

Connecticut people, though just as pious and as prosperous as the Bay colonists, do not appear to have been as grateful, and had considerable trouble at times to "pick vppon a day" for thanksgiving; and the festival was not regularly observed there till 1716.

Thanksgiving was not always appointed in early days for the same token of God's beneficence. Days of thanks were set in gratitude for and observance of great political and military events, for victories over the Indians or in the Palatinate, for the accession of kings, for the prospect of royal heirs to the throne, for the discovery of conspiracy, for the "healing of breaches," the "dissipation of the Pirates," the abatement of diseases, for the safe arrival of "psons of spetiall use and quality," as well as in gratitude for plentiful harvests—that "God had not given them cleannes of teeth and wante of bread."

The early Thanksgivings were not always set upon Thursday. It is said that that day was chosen on account of its reflected glory as lecture day. Judge Sewall told the governor and his council, in 1697, that he "desir'd the same day of the week might be for Thanksgiving and Fasts," and that "Boston and Ipswitch Lectures led us to Thorsday." The feast of thanks was for many years appointed with equal frequency upon "Tusday com seuen-night," or "vppon Wensday com fort-nit." Nor was any special season of the year chosen: in 1716 it was appointed in August; in 1713, in January; in 1718, in December; in 1719, in October. The frequent appointments in gratitude for bountiful harvests finally made the autumn the customary time.

The God of the Puritans was a jealous God, and many fasts were appointed to avert his wrath, as shown in blasted wheat, moulded beans, wormy pease, and mildewed corn; in drought and grasshoppers; in Indian invasions; in caterpillars and other woes of New England; in children dying by the chincough; in the "excessive raigns from the botles of Heaven"—all these evils being sent for the crying sins of wig-wearing, sheltering Quakers, not paying the ministers, etc. A fast and a feast kept close company in Puritan calendars. A fast frequently preceded Thanksgiving

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