Dutch Touches

page 6 of 10

The rioters finally dispersed at the entreaties of many good citizens,—among them Robert R. Livingstone, who wrote the letter from which this account is taken. In 1774, November 5th was still a legal holiday.

There still exists in New York a feeble and divided survival of the processions and bonfires of Guy Fawkes Day. The police-prohibited bonfires of barrels on election night, and the bedraggled parade of begging boys on Thanksgiving Day are our reminders to-day of this old English holiday.

There was one old-time holiday beloved of New Yorkers whose name is now almost forgotten, — Pinkster Day. This name was derived from the Dutch word for Pentecost, and must have been used at a very early date; for in a Dutch book of sermons, written by Adrian Fischer, and printed in 1667, the title of one sermon reads: Het Eersts Tractact; Van de Uystortnge dcs Yeyligen Geests over de Apostelen op ben Pinckster Dagh, — a sermon upon the story of the Descent of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles on Pinkster Day.

The Jewish feast of Pentecost was observed on the fiftieth day after the celebration of the Passover, and is the same as the Christian holy-day Whitsunday, which is connected with its Jewish predecessor historically (as is so beautifully told in the second chapter of Acts), and intrinsically through its religious signification. The week following Whitsunday has been observed with great honor and rejoicing in many lands, but in none more curiously, more riotously, than in old New York, and to some extent in Pennsylvania and Maryland; and, more strangely still, that observance was chiefly by an alien, a heathen race, — the negroes. It was one of our few distinctively American folk-customs, and its story has been told by many writers of that day, and should not now be forgotten. Nowhere was it a more glorious festival than at Albany, among the sheltered, the cherished slave population in that town and its vicinity. The celebration was held on Capitol Hill, then universally known as Pinkster Hill. Munsell gives this account of the day:—

“Pinkster was a great day, a gala day, or rather week, for they used to keep it up a week among the darkies. The dances were the original Congo dances as danced in their native Africa.


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