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How the Dutch Partook in Thanksgiving

Mark your calendars folks, for Thanksgiving is on its way! Did you know that before setting sail for the New World, the Pilgrims first spent several years in Leiden? Read on to discover more about this affiliation, and how you can celebrate Thanksgiving in the Netherlands.

How the Netherlands Took Part in Thanksgiving

A few weeks ago, I was surprised to learn that the Dutch indeed had a pretty important role in Thanksgiving. Prior to boarding the Mayflower and sailing to Massachusetts, the Pilgrims took a detour and resided in Leiden for over a decade! Fleeing from religious persecution by the Church of England, the Pilgrims decided to re-settle in the Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden (the Dutch Republic). The Netherlands was a comparatively tolerant nation where the congregation could practice its religious beliefs without fear of execution. 

After a few initial years of struggling in Amsterdam, around 100 members of the congregation decided to emigrate to the city of Leiden. This industrial city was a place where the Pilgrims could flourish and partake in the local economy. Although the language barrier did pose some obstacles, overtime, the Pilgrims assimilated nicely into their new homes. Some even integrated so well, that there were fears that the religious congregation would completely disintegrate. These fears induced the Pilgrims to go searching for a new home in New England.

Sightseeing in Leiden

Although the Pilgrim congregation in Leiden eventually disappeared, its legacy continued to live on. In the New World, some notable names included, Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, George and G.W. Bush and Barack Obama. Leiden as well continued to commemorate its Pilgrim ancestors.

If you visit the Pieterskerk in Leiden, you will see the resting place of Robinson and other original Pilgrims. You will also find a large marker, commemorating the Mayflower expedition. Every year on Thanksgiving morning, the Pieterskerk also holds an ecumenical service open to the public. This year, the service will take place on 22 November at 11 am. Along with the Church, visitors can also take a trip to the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, which holds artifacts that date back to the Pilgrims' stay in Leiden.

Fun fact: Since recently, the Pieterskerk has also opened its very own Pilgrim-themed escape room! This 60-minute session is available in both English and Dutch and can be booked here

Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving is never complete without a slice of turkey and a sweet potato casserole. If you do not feel like stuffing your own turkey this year, here are two of my favorite restaurants that offer Thanksgiving meals:

  • Pops, Wassenaar (22/10/2018 from 8-11:30 p.m.)
  • Holiday Inn, Leiden (22/10/2018 from 6-9:30 p.m.)


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