This is from my cousin Larry. Thanks.
December 21st, Friends,
In the Northern Hemisphere, today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It’s officially the first day of winter and one of the oldest-known holidays in human history. Anthropologists believe that solstice celebrations go back at least 30,000 years, before humans even began farming on a large scale. Many of the most ancient stone structures made by human beings were designed to pinpoint the precise date of the solstice. The stone circles of Stonehenge were arranged to receive the first rays of midwinter sun.
Some ancient peoples believed that because daylight was waning, it might go away forever, so they lit huge bonfires to tempt the sun to come back. The tradition of decorating our houses and our trees with lights at this time of year is passed down from those ancient bonfires. In ancient Egypt and Syria, people celebrated the winter solstice as the sun’s birthday. In ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated with the festival of Saturnalia, during which all business transactions and even wars were suspended, and slaves were waited upon by their masters.
Henry David Thoreau said: “In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends.”
On this day in 1620, the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock on the shores of Massachusetts. The Mayflower carried enough furniture for 19 cottages, as well as pigs, goats, guns, journals and Bibles. Native American tribes had already skirmished with the Pilgrims as they explored the banks of Cape Cod. William Bradford, who became the governor of Plymouth Plantation, wrote that they reached the new continent and found nothing but “a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men.”
For the first year, the Pilgrims and Indians lived peacefully together. They signed a peace treaty in the spring and had a plentiful harvest. But there was trouble the following January. The chief of a tribe called the Narragansett wanted no part in the peace treaty, and he sent Bradford a sheaf of arrows wrapped inside a snakeskin. Bradford sent the snakeskin back to him, stuffing it with bullets. Then the pilgrims built a wall around their village, 11 feet high and a mile around.
A year later, in March 1623, Bradford sent a group of heavily armed men to a neighboring camp of English settlers. They had been told that the Indians there were planning a massacre. Led by Miles Standish, they arrived at the village and cornered four Indians. Standish took them into a hut and killed them with a knife. Then he ordered his men to kill all the Indians in the village, but some escaped into a swamp. He cut off one of the Indians’ heads and brought it back to Plymouth, placing it on a spike for all to see. Later, a former minister to the Pilgrims sent a letter saying, “Oh! How happy a thing had it been, if you had converted some before you had killed any.”