Mayflower Day

Mayflower Day is a holiday that commemorates the day the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, on its journey to the New World in 1620. On September 16, 1620, 102 colonists—men, women, and children—left England seeking fortune and/or religious freedom. The Mayflower was supposed to land in Virginia, but instead, it was blown off course, and they ended up landing at what is now Cape Cod. Eventually, after exploring the area around Cape Cod, they decided on settling in Plymouth.

The History of the Mayflower

The Mayflower was a merchant ship that set sail from a port on the southern coast of England called Plymouth and sailed across the Atlantic to the New World. Normally, this ship would carry dry goods and/or wine, but this time it carried approximately 102 colonists, who were eager to begin a new life. About 40 of these colonists were Protestant Separatists.

They originally set sail on a ship called the Speedwell, but it began to leak and take on water almost immediately, so they had to return to the port in Plymouth. They then loaded themselves onto the Mayflower—a ship that was 24 feet wide and about 80 feet long. This ship was captained by Captain Christopher Jones.

Because they had to switch ships, the mission was delayed, so they had to leave using the Mayflower at the height of the Atlantic storm season. This resulted in a rough, unpleasant, and dangerous trip. The water was so rough that one of the colonists was swept overboard. After 66 days, they reached the New World. Upon landing, they found an abandoned Native American village and nothing else. This is when they discovered that they were at the wrong location—a location they weren’t legally allowed to be.

Because they weren’t allowed to be at that location, they decided to draw up what they called the Mayflower Compact. This instrument promised that they would create a civil body politic that was governed by elected officials. They also swore allegiance to the English king.

Nowadays, there are an estimated 10 million people living in the United States who are descended from the original passengers on the Mayflower. Around the world, there are 35 million descendants of the Mayflower passengers. Some famous people descended from Mayflower passengers include U.S. President John Adams, U.S. President James Garfield, actor Humphrey Bogart, and chef/author/TV personality Julia Child.

Observing Mayflower Day

Anyone wanting to observe Mayflower Day can do so by learning more about its trip to the New World. It’s a good day to learn more about the ship and the lifestyle of the colonists, as well as the hardships they faced once they reached the New World. To spread the word about this holiday, people can also use the hashtag #MayflowerDay on their social media accounts.

When is it?
This year (2024)
September 16 Monday
Next year (2025)
September 16 Tuesday
Last year (2023)
September 16 Saturday
Culture & History