Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanksgiving and Old Sturbridge Village: Learn about New England history

 Looking for something fun and educational to do Thanksgiving week?
STURBRIDGE –  Old Sturbridge Village "historians will re-create 1830s-style Thanksgiving foods and activities" on Thanksgiving Day through Nov. 25, with "hearth cooking, Native American food traditions, musket shooting matches, presentations on the history of Thanksgiving, and a re-created wedding."

 For times and details:; 800-SEE-1830.

According to a release, ?Native American historian Marge Bruchac, portraying “Indian Doctress” Molly Geet, will talk about Algonquian food traditions, noting that virtually all of the foods we associate with the Thanksgiving feast– turkey, cranberries, corn, squash, etc. – are foods cultivated or hunted by the original Native people of New England, who introduced these foods to European colonists."

Also, "OSV costumed historians will roast turkey in a 'tin kitchen,' or reflector oven (a kitchen innovation in the 1830s) and will cook meat by dangling it on a twisted string over the hearth so it will rotate and roast evenly.  Visitors can watch an after-dinner shooting match with black powder muskets, which was a popular pastime in early New England, much like watching football games is today. Tales, tunes and hands-on crafts will be offered throughout the weekend."

Native Americans celebrated many "Thanksgivings" throughout the year – in every season, for every harvest, according to Bruchac. These included ‘Maple Sugar Thanksgiving,’ ‘Strawberry Thanksgiving,’ and the ‘Green Corn Moon,’ when the first corn was eaten in August. The ‘Harvest Thanksgiving,’ when squashes were gathered in from the fields and dried, fell into season with Anglo-American autumn harvest festivals.

"According to Old Sturbridge Village historians, weddings in early New England were simple affairs often celebrated at Thanksgiving when families had more time to travel and socialize after the hard work of harvesting was done.  Wedding garments were often just the groom’s best tail coat and the bride’s best dress – not the elegant white gowns that became popular in the late 1800s."

Old Sturbridge Village is open Wednesday – Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.  OSV offers free parking and a free return visit within 10 days. Admission: $24; seniors $22; children 3-17, $8; children 2 and under, free. Woo Card subscribers get $5 off adult daytime admission; college Woo cardholders receive $12 off adult daytime admission. For times and details of all OSV activities visit: or call 1-800-SEE-1830.
Also from the release:

Did you know?
·         In early New England, Thanksgiving was the biggest holiday of the year, far surpassing Christmas, which wasn't celebrated in the tradition of the Puritans who settled the region.
·         Turkeys in the early 19th century were much smaller than today's "butterballs," and turkey wasn't always on the Thanksgiving menu, because they were a lot of work to prepare for not much meat.
·         In the early 1800s, turkey "drovers" herded and marched turkeys on foot from central and western Massachusetts to the huge Brighton market just outside of Boston, Mass. to sell the birds to wealthy city dwellers.
·         Many vegetables weren't peeled for everyday cooking, but they were for holidays like Thanksgiving to show the elevated status of the day.
·         Pies were baked weeks ahead of time and stored in unheated attics and bedrooms where they would freeze and keep for months. Pies not consumed at Thanksgiving would sometimes last until April.
·         The cranberry is one of three fruits native to North America, and was used by Native Americans to make pemmican – a survival food made of mashed cranberries mixed with deer meat. They also used cranberries in poultices to draw poison from wounds.

-Thanksgiving cooking 1830s style at Old Sturbridge Village: a turkey dangles from a twisted string over the hearth fire. As the string unwinds, the turkey rotates and roasts more evenly.  
-In early New England Thanksgiving was the biggest holiday of the year, far surpassing Christmas, which wasn't celebrated in the tradition of the Puritans who settled the region.
- An after dinner target shoot was the 1830s equivalent of watching Thanksgiving Day football games today.

Editor's note: All information in this post was contributed.


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