Thanksgiving connected to Leiden

Published on 13 November 2019

In the 16th century, Pilgrim Fathers fled to Amsterdam due to religious issues in their home country England. The King went after all who wanted to seperate from the Anglican church. The Pilgrim Fathers decided to fled to The Netherlands.

The move to Leiden

Members of the community who lived in Amsterdam wanted to move again within The Netherlands. They picked Leiden as city of residence.

One of the leaders of the Leiden community of Pilgrim Fathers was John Robinson. He lived opposite the Pieterskerk, at the Pesijnshof.

In his house, church services were organized for the English community.

Some Pilgrim Fathers didn’t do well in The Netherlands but going back to England was not an option. They were ready for a new adventure.

The journey to America

About 57 Pilgrims decided to embark the Mayflower which would leave for America.

The boat arrived in Plymouth, Massachussets in the winter. It was cold, there was hardly any food and people died.

Luckily the native Americans, Wamponoag, helped them looking for a better life.

In 1620, the Wamponoag and Pilgrims celebrated the harvest together. Thanksgiving was born although it took till 1863 before Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln.

All in all, 125 Pilgrims who lived in Leiden before, arrived in Plymouth, Massachussets by boat.

Interesting Facts

  • John Robinson, one of the leaders, was buried in the Pieterskerk.
  • Nine American presidents are descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers: Adams senior and junior, Taylor, Grant, Garfield, Roosevelt, Bush senior and junior and Obama.
  • Every year, an ecumenical Thanksgiving Day service is held in the Pieterskerk in Leiden. NOTE: The Thanksgiving Day service 2019 will be held on Thursday, November 28th at 11 a.m. Church will be open at 10 a.m., entrance is free.
  • In 2020 the Pilgrims Fathers’ journey to America will be commemorated. The four countries The Netherlands, England, America and Wamponoag will be particpating in all kinds of festivities. In Leiden many activities will be organized, e.g. Walking and Canal Tours. You can find the programme, which is still in progress, here.







On May 4th, people in the Netherlands pay their respect to all victims who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the beginning of Worl War II by a 2-minute silence throughout the whole country.

This year a commemoration with the public is possible again.

National Commemoration

Every year at 7:50 p.m., the National Commemoration will take place on Amsterdam’s Dam Square.

King Alexander and Queen Maxima will walk through a veterans’ guard to lay a wreath on behalf of all citizens of The Netherlands. After this ceremony, there will be a 2-minute silence throughout the whole country.

Furthermore, public transport and road traffic will come to a standstill.



The main commemoration will start in the St. Bavo Church at the Grote Markt.

A silent march will start at the church, Riviervismarkt side, and ends at the Dreef. Here, victims of war will be commemorated by laying wreaths at the memorial of ‘Man in front of the firing squad.’

Commemorations will also take place on the Westergracht, Burgemeester Reinaldapark and Jan Gijzenbrug.

The full program can be found on this website.


Eerebegraafplaats Bloemendaal in Overveen

One of the many honorary cemeteries can be found in the Kennemer Dunes at the Zeeweg in Overveen.

This cemetery was consecrated on November 27th, 1945, by the reburial of Hannie Schaft, a famous Dutch Resistance fighter.

Three hundred seventy-two resistance fighters were re-buried at this cemetery.

Silent march to the memorial cemetery

From 6 p.m. to p.m 6:40 p.m. a memorial service will be held in the building of ‘Publieke Werken’ on the Brouwerskolkweg in Overveen
This service is open to relatives of the fallen and all who are interested.

6:40 p.m. set up of silent march right after the roundabout, corner Brouwerskolk – Zeeweg.

6:55 p.m. start of the silent march to the memorial cemetery

8 p.m. 2 minutes of silence

The silent march is a tribute to the fallen and thoughts about freedom and peace.

On May 4th, people can visit the cemetery between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. As of 7 p.m., the cemetery will be closed at 7 p.m.



Dutch flags will fly half-mast from 6 p.m. until sunset on government buildings. The same rule applies to citizens. For them, this rule is not a directive.

Broadcast on tv

NOS will broadcast the national commemoration ceremony live from 7:50 p.m. on NPO.