Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Pilgrims, Puritans, Americans?

Much of what we know about the roots of American values arises from what we know — or, don’t know —  about the dissident Protestant sects that settled Massachusetts, the Pilgrims and the much more numerous Puritans. The fourth Thursday in November commemorates the earliest event in our national holiday calendar, the Pilgrim’s thanksgiving for barely surviving their first winter in 1621. Many a Thanksgiving Day speech-maker hearkens back to these early New England settlers to understand America and to seek guidance for the American future.

Historians warn, however, that the Puritans were a strange group, one highly atypical of early America; they were perhaps more a cult than a community. Scholars have, in the words of one, “long since abandoned any interpretation grounding the American nation in Puritanism.” Yet the Puritans may have left us something enduring besides the holiday and tourist sites: not a model for American community but an ideology for American culture.

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