What is Cranberry Day like for a Wampanoag child?
Children are familiar with celebrations like Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President’s Day and New Year’s Day, but there are many other cultural celebrations (such as Cranberry Day) that your students may not know about. Students for whom Cranberry Day is an unfamiliar celebration may be intrigued to know that the children of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe get a day off from school on the second Tuesday of October to celebrate! After reading this story, try out the Cranberry Snacks activity in this curriculum, and you and your students can share in some Wampanoag traditions and celebrate the cranberry harvest too!
Ask your students about holidays that they celebrate. Does anyone have any holidays that their family celebrates that might be different from those that other students celebrate? Many Native American cultures have celebrations within their own tribe or nation. The Aquinnah Wampanoag in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts celebrates a day called Cranberry Day—here is a story about that day told by someone who is Wampanoag!
Listen to this story and learn more about Cranberry Day!
The following description is a true story of Cranberry Day when Gladys Widdis, a member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag nation, was a child. Read the story to your students, maybe while they are snacking on cranberry juice and a cranberry snack:
Sharing a Story About Cranberry Day by Gladys Widdis, Aquinnah Wampanoag
“Every year, the first week in October, there’s Cranberry Day. This is the one big ceremony that I remember. When we were youngsters, Cranberry Day was a real holiday. There was no school and nobody went to work. Everyone got up around 4 o’clock. Grandpa got the oxen ready and we took all of our food for lunch. We loaded the oxcarts with the food and as many of us as would fit in after the food was in. The rest of us walked. We all went down to the cranberry bogs. We would go down and pick until 11 or 12 o’clock. Everyone from the oldest to the youngest picked cranberries. We picked on our knees, by hand of course. Most of us youngsters ate more than we picked. Around noontime all the families would gather together for lunch. One of the large sand dunes made an ideal place for it. Everyone shared food back and forth. It was one big picnic. After lunch the little ones were allowed to play for the rest of the day, but the older ones would still pick for another 2 hours or so. The first day, only Gay Head Aquinnah people were allowed to come and pick. After that, anyone from any part of the island could come. Of course, now there are no more oxcarts. They go down to the bogs with their cars and trucks. But we still celebrate Cranberry Day.”
After your students have heard the story, have a quick discussion with them. Does Cranberry Day remind them of any holidays that they celebrate? What do they think it was like to pick all of those cranberries?
Have your students share some stories about their favorite holidays. What are some of the special things that their family does during these celebrations? You can also share these featured books with your students: Cranberry Day: A Wampanoag Harvest Celebration by Jannette Vanderhoop; and 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Marge Bruchac.
Now that your students have heard about Cranberry Day, try the Cranberry Snacks activity from this curriculum.
Check out the resources below for even more information.
Books For Adults: