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America’s Pilgrims Celebrated Thanksgiving in A-Frames

Published November 15, 2013

The holidays are here, and families nationwide are starting to seriously think about entertaining. Home designs have changed considerably since the days the pilgrims settled in the New World. In case you have forgotten the history -Thanksgiving was traditionally designated as the fourth Thursday of November, a commemoration to the feast held at Plymouth in 1621 by the English colonists. The voyage on the Mayflower by the colonists from England to the New World of America was 3,000 miles, and many people did not survive the first few months of winter in America. Natives called the Wampanoag, or “eastern people” lived in the Massachusetts Bay area. Their leader Massasoit - meaning Great Sachem, or leader, was a title used by their chief named Qusamequin who helped teach the pilgrims how to plant the native crops.


The Wampanoags lived in homes called wetus (left) which were essentially saplings that had been bent into a circular shape and fastened. The summertime wetus frames were covered with woven grass, whereas in the winter, bark helped keep the families warmer. Inside the natives used woven sleeping mats and blankets made from animal skins. There was a smoke-hole with a cover in the roof above the fire pit.


Inside the wetus the natives used woven sleeping mats and blankets made from animal skins. These people planted their crops of corn, beans, squash in the summer, and by the fall they would harvest their bounty and move inland to wooded forest areas for protection during the winter.


Ten months after arriving in Plimoth the English settlers had built seven houses in Plimoth Village, which sprang up in 1621 and were built along a main street featuring livestock areas and crops, and surrounded by a palisade, which was a barrier of wooden stakes. These first pilgrim homes (right) in Plimoth were designed and modeled after the English cottage house plan - timber A frames with a steep pitched roof that enabled either sleeping or storage just above the main room. These houses were finished with wooden boards and then covered with straw, making a thatched roof. Indoors there was a comfortable main room where people lived, ate and slept, with a big central fireplace. The homes then averaged about 800 square feet.


Architecture today stems from the traditional A frame home design that was so popular in early America. A steep A-shaped roof offers large and soaring windows while a wrap-around deck offers plenty of outdoor living space for grilling or relaxing.



Entertaining During the Thanksgiving Holiday


We can think the members of the Wampanoag people and the pilgrims who marked Thanksgiving by the giving of thanks to God for the harvest and plentiful food. In November 1621 after the first corn harvest came in with success, Governor William Bradford organized a feast of celebration and invited the colony’s Native American allies. Many of the natives traveled miles to attend the feast in Plimoth, and they brought deer meat as a gift. Once there, the colonists helped them build temporary dwellings.


There is actually only one historical written accounting of the first Thanksgiving, and there was no mention of turkey, or mashed potatoes and cranberries. It said there was duck, deer, and also seafood, onions, corn and cabbage. Many of these dishes were probably prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. The festivities lasted three days, not just one day, and pilgrims and Indians sat down at meal times throughout the colony both indoors and outside; sometimes together, while other times separately, enjoying bountiful harvest means.


In 1621 duck, which the pilgrims had to shoot themselves, was probably the main course. Freshly plucked ducks were roasted on the fire and corn was ground by the children into something called samp, which was like porridge. The English colonists would never have survived without the Wampanoag Indians. Our national holiday known as Thanksgiving stems from this feast held in the autumn of 1621 – almost 500 years ago.


Between meals, the children played games; the Pilgrims teaching the natives Blind Man's bluff, while the Wampanoags taught their friends The Pin Game, tossing a ring onto a pin. Many of the Pilgrim adults spent time in prayer as part of their religion.


This month as Americans enjoy the holidays and Thanksgiving entertaining, remember that in many ways we are not that different than the pilgrims. There is one way to get the house ready for entertaining this year. Cut the clutter and make extra seating by extending entertaining spaces outdoors in warmer weather climates. Provide seating areas for TV-football, casual-quiet conversation, and the finale; Thanksgiving dinner. For more great house plan ideas, visit http://www.theplancolleciton.com



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