Celebrate an 1830s Thanksgiving at Old Sturbridge Village

Date: 11/13/2015

STURBRIDGE – This year, guests will celebrate Thanksgiving traditions for three weekends in November, in addition to Thanksgiving Day itself, at Old Sturbridge Village.

What was the favorite Thanksgiving dish in 1830s New England? Turkey? Cranberry sauce? Pumpkin pie? None of the above, according to culinary historians at Old Sturbridge Village. The hands-down Thanksgiving favorite in the early days was Marlborough Pudding, a classic apple and custard pie. And often, turkey wasn’t even on the Thanksgiving menu.

Thanksgiving was the most important holiday in the early 1800s, and Old Sturbridge Village will celebrate it in style. Historians in costume will show how early New England families prepared for their Thanksgiving feast. Other demonstrations during the Bounty event include turkey shooting matches, making plans for a wedding and Native American food traditions with special guests from the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. Heritage breed turkeys will also be on display.

Every weekend, costumed historians will demonstrate how 19th-century residents prepare for the Thanksgiving meal and gather supplies with a storekeeper's tour at the Asa Knight General Store. There will also be a reading of the Thanksgiving Proclamation in the Center Meetinghouse, twice daily during the weekends the program runs.  

In early New England, Thanksgiving was a time to celebrate the completion of the harvest and for families to gather together. As it is today, Thanksgiving was a busy travel time as adults and children traveled “home for the holiday,” inspiring author Lydia Maria Child to write the still-famous poem, “Over the river and through the woods to grandfather's house we go...”

Shooting matches were the traditional after-dinner entertainment, much as football games are today, and Old Sturbridge Village will recreate this popular pastime during the holiday weekends. Weddings were also common events during the Thanksgiving weekend, since families were already gathered and the hard work of the harvest was complete; our historians will lead visitors in making steps to prepare for an 1830s wedding.

Village guests may purchase a meal at a “Bountiful Buffet” offered in the Bullard Tavern during the Bounty celebration weekends, featuring many Thanksgiving-themed foods prepared by the Village's own chef, Bill Nemeroff. The Village Café will also sell sandwiches, soups and beverages.

Old Sturbridge Village is one of the country's oldest and largest living history museums, celebrating life in early New England from 1790 to 1840. The Village offers free parking and is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, and free second day admission within 10 days. For times and details of all Village activities visit www.osv.org or call 1-800-SEE-1830.