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Thanksgiving recreated at OSV

Date: 11/15/2010

STURBRIDGE -- Even though Thanksgiving wasn't an official holiday in early New England, it was still a favorite time for family gatherings, feasts, and weddings, since the harvest was done, and farm families had time to celebrate and give thanks.

Old Sturbridge Village historians will re-create 1830s-style Thanksgiving foods and activities on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25 through Nov. 27, 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 visit or call 800-SEE-1830.

Native American historian Marge Bruchac as "Indian Doctress" Molly Geet will talk about Algonquian food traditions, pointing out that virtually all of the foods consumed in the Yankee Thanksgiving feast in the fall 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.

OSV historians in 1830s costume will roast turkey in a "tin kitchen," or reflector oven, which was a kitchen innovation in the 1830s and will roast meat on a string over the hearth. 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.

According to Bruchac, area Native Americans didn't have just one Thanksgiving each year, they celebrated many. "For centuries, the Algonquian Indian peoples of New England practiced rituals of feasting and giving thanks throughout the year in every season, for every harvest. 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 roughly into season with Anglo-American autumn harvest festivals. These stories are common among Nipmuc, Mohegan, Pequot, Schaghticoke, and other Native peoples of central New England," Bruchac notes. "Native beliefs and customs of hospitality called for sharing with relatives and even with strangers at these times. These customs were tied in to the belief that one must shelter strangers as insurance against the day when one might need sheltering oneself."

Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life from 1790-1840 and is one of the country's oldest and largest living history museums, with more than 40 restored buildings, a working farm with heritage breed animals, heirloom gardens, and more. The Village is famous for its crafts demonstrations and historical interpreters in period costume.

Located just off the Mass Pike, I-84 and Rte. 20 in Sturbridge, Mass., OSV is open year round with hours of operation varying seasonally. Admission: $20; seniors $18; children 3-17, $7; children under 3, free. For details of all activities and hours of operation, visit or call 800-SEE-1830.