New York Burning

page 9 of 10

Various wild flowers were known as Pinkster flowers. The beautiful azalea that once bloomed — indeed does still bloom — so plentifully throughout New York in May, was universally known as “pinkster flower” or “pinkster bloom,” and along the banks of the Hudson till our own day was called “pinkster blummachee.” The traveller Kalm noted it in 1740, and called it by that name. Mrs. Vanderbilt calls it “pinkster bloomitze.” I was somewhat surprised to hear a Rhode Island farmer, in the summer of 1893, ask me whether he should not pick me “some pinkster blossoms,” pointing at the same time to the beautiful swamp pink that flushed with rosy glow the tangles of vines and bushes on the edge of the Narragansett woods. It is interesting to know that by many authorities the name “pink,” of our common garden flower, is held to be derived from the Dutch Pinkster, German Pfingsten, and owes its name, not to its pink color, but to the season of its blooming. In other localities in New York and New Jersey the blue flag or iris was known as “pinkster bloom.”

Throughout New England the black residents, free and in bondage, held high holiday one day in May, or in some localities during the first week in June; but the day of revelry was everywhere called “Nigger ’Lection.” In Puritandom the observance of Whitsunday was believed to have “superstition writ on its forehead;” but Election Day was a popular and properly Puritanical May holiday; therefore the negro holiday took a similar name, and the “Black Governor” was elected on the week following the election of the white Governor, usually on Saturday.

There was some celebration of days of thanksgiving in New Netherland as in Holland; they were known by a peculiar double name, fast-prayer and thank-day. These days did not develop among the Dutch in the new world into the position of importance they held among English colonists. In 1644 the first public Thanksgiving Day whose record has come down to us was proclaimed in gratitude for the safe return of the Dutch warriors after a battle with the Connecticut Indians on Strickland’s Plains near Stamford. A second Thanksgiving service was announced for the 6th of September, 1645, whereon God was to be “specially thanked, praised, and blessed for suffering” the long-wished-for


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