Rather than separation of church and state in England in the 1600’s, it was illegal to be part of any church other than the Church of England. A group of dissenters moved from England to the Netherlands – where church and state were separate – and then back to England. Their leadership decided to establish a colony in North America, where they would be free not only to practice their own religion but eventually, free to persecute those whose religions differed! They sailed for North America (in the ship Mayflower), and established a town. The colonists – known to us as pilgrims – “A pilgrim is a person who goes on a long journey often with a religious or moral purpose, and especially to a foreign land.” – see http://www.plimoth.org/learn/just-kids/homework-help/who-were-pilgrims – experienced – despite their piety – a difficult first year, and only about half of them survived. They were aided in practical matters – such as obtaining sufficient food – not by supernatural intervention, but rather by the local aborigines (who did not have a help desk in India)! The colonists made a mutual protection treaty with these Native Peoples, and invited them to a feast in 1621 to celebrate their first harvest – and this feast is the basis of our national holiday. (Based on the way the descendants and successors of the Pilgrims reciprocated the kindness extended by our Native People, eventually driving them off of their lands and into refugee camps known as ‘reservations’, it is unlikely that Native Americans share the same warm, fuzzy feelings about this day…)
(N.B.: It is of interest to note that at that time when the pilgrims were struggling for survival, to the South – in present day Virginia, – a colony had been established which by 1619 already had an elected legislature, which brings to question the value of “I have relatives who came over on the Mayflower“. American humorist Will Rogers – who had some Native American Ancestry – once responded to a lady who most pompously and arrogantly stated: “My ancestors came over on the Mayflower” with: “My ancestors were there to greet them!”)
Enjoy the holiday, endure the insipid deportment of some in attendance, keep in mind the need for Church State Separation, share with those less fortunate, and reflect on our national guilt.