Zion on the Hudson

page 8 of 10

Executions were held on Pinkster Hill, and other public punishments took place there.

In the realm of fiction we find evidence of the glories of Pinkster Day in New York. Cooper, in his “Satanstoe,” tells of its observance in New York City. He calls it the saturnalia of the blacks, and says that they met on what we now know as City Hall Park, and that the negroes came for thirty or forty miles around to join in the festivities.

On Long Island Pinkster Day was widely observed. The blacks went, on the week previous to the celebration, to Brooklyn and New York to sell sassafras and swinglingtow, to earn their scanty spending-money for Pinkster. They were everywhere freely given their time for rioting, and domestic labor was performed by the masters and mistresses; but they had to provide their own spending-money for gingerbread and rum. They gathered around the old market in Brooklyn near the ferry, dancing for eels, blowing fish-horns, eating and drinking. The following morning the judge’s office was full of sorry blacks, hauled up for “disorderly conduct.”

On Long Island the Dutch residents also made the day a festival, “going to pinkster fields for pinkster frolics,” exchanging visits, and drinking schnapps, and eating “softwafels” together. About twelve years ago, while driving through Flatlands and New Lots one beautiful day in May, I met a group of young men driving from door to door of the farm-houses, in wagons gayly dressed with branches of dogwood blossoms, and entering each house for a short visit. I asked whether a wedding or a festival were being held in the town, and was answered that it was an old Dutch custom to make visits that week. I tried to learn whence this observance came, but no one knew its reason for being, or what holiday was observed. Poor Pinkster! still vaguely honored as a shadow, a ghost of the past, but with your very name forgotten, even among the children of those who gave to you in this land a name and happy celebration!


:: Previous Page :: Next Page ::

Books & articles appearing here are modified adaptations
from a private collection of vintage books & magazines.
Reproduction of these pages is prohibited without written permission. © Laurel O'Donnell, 1996-2006.