September 16 – Mayflower Day

Posted on September 16, 2015

They set sail on a perilous journey, to a mostly-unknown land.

They were hoping to start a new life in the so-called New World.

They got aboard a 100-foot sailing ship, ready to live on the Tween Deck, just 68 feet long by 24 feet at its widest – with about 100 other passengers! Sunlight never reached the Tween deck – so it was always dark, and cold, and damp.
On this diagram, the "Tween Deck" is called the "Main Deck."




The colonists who boarded the Mayflower, choosing to leave everyone else they had ever known and everywhere they had ever been, were going to be in those miserable cramped conditions for two entire months!

Today is the 395th anniversary of the Mayflower setting sail from Plymouth, England. That's right: in just five years we can celebrate the Mayflower's quadricentennial!

Did you know...?

  • Although we refer to the colonists who came to the New World on the Mayflower as “Pilgrims,” only some of them were Protestant Separatists, who did not want to pledge allegiance to the Church of England. And they did not call themselves “Pilgrims”; instead, they called themselves “Saints”!

Actually, the word “Pilgrims” (which means people who journey to a sacred place for religious reasons) wasn't used for the Mayflower colonists until 1820.




  • Another thing we are not so historically accurate about is that the Separatists (or Saints) weren't fleeing religious persecution from the Old World, undertaking the dangerous ocean crossing and unknown dangers of the New World in a desperate attempt to gain religious freedom. In actual fact, the English Protestants moved from England to Leyden (or Leiden), in Holland, to gain their religious freedom. And they DID have religious freedom in Holland!

But the easygoing atmosphere of Holland that allowed them to worship as they liked also “drew away” some of the Saints children into a more secular life. And the Saints didn't like that one bit. So, in a way, coming to the New World was a way of REDUCING religious freedom – of making sure that their kids pretty much only heard THEIR version of religion!

Also, to be fair, living in Holland, it was hard for the English folks to get good jobs. The Dutch craft guilds excluded the migrants, and they only got the most menial, low-paying jobs (you know, the kind the migrants tend to get these days, as well).

So the Saints hoped to start their new life with no governmental interference and no worldly temptations.

  • Notice that I said that only some of the “Pilgrims” were Separatists. About 60 of the new colonists were secular – they were going to the New World for reasons that didn't pertain to religion. The Saints called them “Strangers.”
  • Originally the plan was to said earlier – not in the storm season. And to take two ships, the Mayflower and the much-less-famous Speedwell. But the Speedwell began to leak, so they had to turn back, squeeze everyone onto the Mayflower, and set off again.
  • Because of this delay, the journey was way more unpleasant and dangerous because of the rough seas. Many passengers could not even get up, they were so seasick; one passenger was swept overboard and drowned.
  • The Puritans are not the same group as the Pilgrims, as this video states.
























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