Dutch Family in the Middle Colonies

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There was some observance in New York of Shrovetide as a holiday-time. As early as 1657 we find the sober Beverwyck burghers deliberating on “some improprieties committed at the house of Albert de Timmerman on Shrovetide last.” As was the inevitable custom followed by the extremely uninventive brain of the seventeenth and eighteenth century rioter, were he Dutch or English, these “improprieties” took the form of the men’s parading in women’s clothes; Pieter Semiensen was one of the masqueraders. Two years later the magistrates were again investigating the “unseemly and scandalous” celebration of Shrovetide; and as ever before, the youth of early Albany donned women’s clothes and “marched as mountebanks,” as the record says, just as they did in Philadelphia and Baltimore and even in sober Boston. We find also for sale in Beverwyck at this time, noisy Shrovetide toys—rommelerytiens, little “rumbling-pots,” which the youth and children doubtless keenly enjoyed.

At an early date Shrovetide observances, such as “pulling the goose,” were prohibited by Governor Stuyvesant in New York. A mild protest on the part of some of the burgomasters against this order of the Governor brought forth one of Stuyvesant’s characteristically choleric edicts in answer, in which he speaks of having “interdicted and forbidden certain farmers’servants to ride the goose at the feast of Backus and Shrovetide .. . because it is altogether unprofitable, unnecessary, and criminal for subjects and neighbors to celebrate such pagan and popish feasts and to practise such customs, notwithstanding the same may in some places of Fatherland be tolerated and looked at through the fingers.” Dornine Blom, of Kingston or Wyltwyck, joined in the governor’s dislike of the game. But there were some of the magistrates who liked very well to “pull the goose” themselves, so it is said. It was a cruel amusement. The thoroughly greased goose was hung between two poles, and the effort of the sport was to catch, snatch away, and hold fast the poor creature while passing at great speed. In Albany in 1677 all “Shrovetide misdemeanors were prohibited, viz.: riding at a goose, cat, hare, and ale.” The fine was twenty-five guilders in sea-want. What the cat, hare, and ale part of the sport was, I do not know.


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