The Pilgrims’ attack on a May Day celebration was a dress rehearsal for removing Native Americans

Throughout history, millions have embraced the holiday – except for the Puritans of early modern England. Though we tend to lump them together, the term “Puritans” included different groups of religious dissenters. Among them were the Pilgrims, who eventually decided to migrate to North America to create new communities according to their religious vision. …

Once in New England, the Puritans believed they needed to be exemplars of proper Christian behavior. Everyone in their towns had to abide by their rules, and they punished colonists whose actions seemed to undermine devout religious practice. …

Why, one might ask, would it matter that stern Puritans would want to quash a good-natured holiday? After all, given many of their other actions, felling a tall tree topped with deer antlers hardly seems worth mentioning.

But as a historian of early New England, I see Bradford’s condemnation of Morton and the destruction of the maypole as a harbinger of future violence.

When they chopped down the maypole, the Puritans believed that they were cleansing the landscape, making it more suitable for pious colonists to occupy. It was their way of demonstrating that they could live up their ideals.

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