Few things are more important to Americans than heritage. Remembering where you come from, and how hard you’ve worked to get where you are are all integral parts of the concept of the American dream.
For those reasons, no holiday could be more American in nature than Forefathers’ Day, a holiday that celebrates the first ever pilgrims courageously sailing across the vast ocean they knew very little about at the time, in search of a better life and freedom from religious prosecution.
When they set foot on the shores of North America, they themselves were the beginning of a new country that would one day become a world superpower. Now that’s definitely an event worth celebrating.
Learn more about Forefathers’ Day
Forefathers’ Day is designed to commemorate the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in the Massachusetts area of Plymouth. This happened on the 21st of December in 1620. The observance of the day was introduced a lot later, though, in 1769, and we will tell you more about this in the next section.
There are a number of different events that the Old Colony Club put on in order to recognize their forefathers. There is a march on the top of Cole’s Hill on this day, which all members of the club participate in. After this, a proclamation is read, which honors the forefathers. The club’s cannon is then fired, which is another important ritual. You can read more about all of these rituals online to get a better understanding.
Another part of the tradition involves a succotash dinner. This is something that both the Mayflower Society and Old Colony Club do. This was recorded as part of the first celebration, and it has continued ever since. For those who are unaware, this is a type of culinary dish that is mainly made of sweetcorn, which is combined with lima beans and other types of shell beans.
Other ingredients that people include are okra, multi-colored sweet peppers, tomatoes, salt pork, turnips, potatoes, and corned beef. As you can see, it is a pretty versatile dish! In the early days, succotash was served as a broth, which contained big pieces of meat and fowl that were sliced at the table. So, as you can see, it has changed quite a lot over the years! Another surprising fact is that the Forefathers were not called “pilgrims” by the Old Colony Club. This is another thing that did not come until later.
The Mayflower Society and the Old Colony Club are worth learning more about. The Mayflower Society, which is officially named The General Society of Mayflower Descendants, is a hereditary organization of people who’s descent has been documented from at least one of the 102 passengers who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620. This is the area that is now known as Plymouth today. This society has been running for many years now, as it was first established in 1897.
You then have the famous Old Colony Club, which is one of the United States’ oldest Gentlemen’s Clubs. This was founded in Plymouth in 1769. The club was established by eight gentlemen who said that their reason for creating the Old Colony Club was to avoid the following:
“the many disadvantages and inconveniences that arise from intermixing with the company at the taverns in … Plymouth.”
Their words, not ours! The traditions and history of this club make interesting reading. During the American Revolution, it actually went moribund because of a split between Patriot and Tory members. However, it was revived in 1875.
History of Forefathers’ Day
Forefathers’ Day is a commemoration of the pilgrims who sailed the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Mayflower, in 1620. As they had left England in search of better days, the Pilgrim Fathers settled on US territory, which they subsequently christened New England.
And as they had set sail from Plymouth, England, they decided to give their landing spot the whimsical name of Plymouth Rock. Therefore, Forefathers’ Day is a holiday celebrated mainly in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on December 22. The holiday was introduced to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1769, so it has quite a long history and tradition.
However, the joyous occasion was first celebrated in 1769, because 149 years after the forefathers actually arrived in North America, some descendants decided to gather for a feast in honour of their ancestors, who would have been their great-great-grandfathers.
How to celebrate Forefathers’ Day
The contemporary version of the feast is the Old Colony Club or Mayflower Society dinner party, which usually involves eating succotash. Nowadays, succotash is a hearty stew made from vegetables and often thick slices of poultry placed on top, but at the time, it was nothing more than sweet corn and and different kinds of beans, sometimes baked in a casserole-type dish under a pie crust to make a sort of pot pie.
In fact, Succotash (from the Narragansett word sohquttahhash) means “broken corn kernels”, and at the very very beginning that’s pretty much all it was. Other ingredients may have been added later as well, including tomatoes and green or sweet red peppers. To celebrate Forefathers’ Day properly, you could try preparing and eating the hallowed Forefather’s traditional succotash, just to get a tiny taste of all the hardships and discomforts that they had to go through to help make America what it is today.
Succotash is in no way bad-tasting, mind you; it just doesn’t have much to offer in the way of nutrition when you think about all of the hard, physical work that had to be done at that time. Make it yourself using this easy recipe:
Forefathers’ Style Succotash
- 2 cups fresh lima beans
- 1 1/2 cups diced onion
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 6 ears)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Place lima beans in a medium saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes or until beans are tender.
Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Sauté diced onion in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Stir in corn; cook, stirring often, 6 minutes or until corn is tender. Stir in beans and 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid; cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in butter, and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chives.
You can spend this day finding out more about the history of the different pilgrim clubs and their traditions. There is a lot to learn and it makes interesting reading.