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The Pilgrim Fathers celebrated Christmas by working, playing, and drinking beer

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Landing of the Pilgrims by Corne - 1620

The Pilgrim Fathers celebrated Christmas by drinking beer (1891)

The chronicles of the Pilgrims, describing their arrival in Cape Cod Bay in December, 1620, refer thus briefly to the first Christmas spent by them in America:

“Monday, the 25th, being Christmas Day, we began to drink water aboard. But at night the master caused us to have some beer, and so on board we had divers times now and then some beer, but on shore none at all.”

What was done in Plymouth the next Christmas is more fully described in the quaint language of Governor Bradford:

“On ye day called Christmas-day, ye Govr. called them out to worke — as was used — but ye most of this new company excused themselves and said it went against their conscience to work on ye day. So ye Govr. told them that if they made it a matter of conscience, he would spare them until they were better informed.

“So he led away ye rest and left them, but when they came home at noon from their worke, he found them in ye streete at play, openly, some pitching ye barr, and some at stoole-ball, and such like sports.

“So he went to them and took away their implements, and told them that was against his conscience, that they should play and others work. If they made ye keeping of it matter of devotion, let them kepe their houses, but there should be no gaming or reveling in ye streets.”

Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth 11th Dec. 1620

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Image: White House copy of the painting Notes from Kloss, William, et al. Art in the White House: A Nation’s Pride. Washington, D.C.: The White House Historical Association, 2008:

“The Sons of the Pilgrims, an organization of patriotic Bostonians, was founded in 1800. The invitation to their first meeting was illustrated with Sam Hill’s engraving of the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620. His image became this inspiration for this . . . painting. . . . In place of the somber garb of Puritanism [the Pilgrims’] bold leader wears a hat of the Napoleonic era, and a group of British redcoats sits staidly behind him!

“The storm-tossed refugees are greeted by a number of incurious Indians rather than the desolate shore that actually awaited them. The Indians, decidedly not dressed for the winter season, stand on different levels of a high rocky bank that replaces the marshes of reality. Otherwise, the topography is generally correct, with Clark’s Island in the distance, and Plymouth Rock in the foreground of the painting. . . ”

Pilgrims in Plymouth - Old fort and first meeting house

Pilgrims in Plymouth -The Pilgrim Fathers' Memorial in Massachusetts

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The first Pilgrim houses in Plymouth 1622

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