Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Old Sturbridge Village, Bounty: Thanksgiving

November 1, 2018 - November 22, 2018

November 1 – 22, from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm. Experience the traditions of preparing for an early 19th-century New England Thanksgiving. Learn about 1830s dining etiquette and watch the men of the Village compete in a post-dinner target shoot (weekends). Smell the scents of roasted turkey and pies warming by the fire. Hear the minister talk about the true meaning of Thanksgiving in the Village’s historic Center Meetinghouse.

Two costumed historians prepare a Thanksgiving meal

On weekends, guests can enjoy a delicious bountiful harvest buffet in the Bullard Tavern (see below for more information).

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.

Bountiful Harvest Buffet in the Bullard Tavern

Served weekends (November 3 & 4, 10 & 11, 17 & 18, and 24 & 25) from 11:30 – 2:30 pm

We are not accepting reservations for the Bountiful Harvest Buffet.


  • $21.95 Adults
  • $12.95 Kids 12 and under
  • Kids under 3 eat free.


  • Butternut Squash Bisque
  • Carved Roast Turkey
  • Carved Ham
  • Cranberry Sage Stuffing
  • Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes w/ side of Pan Gravy
  • Vegetarian Stuffed Acorn Squash
  • Warm Apple Crisp
  • Pies with Whipped Topping

In his 1835 book, John Abbot wrote that in the days and weeks preceding Thanksgiving “the art of cookery is tasked to its utmost. The oven groans with puddings and pies, and excepting in the poultry-yard, there is universal glee.”

What was on early 19th-century New Englanders’ Thanksgiving Tables? Some of the items were similar to today. Still, there are some significant differences.

Early 19th-century New Englanders enjoyed turkey on Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t a necessary staple yet. Since turkeys in 1830s New England were typically smaller than the ones available at the grocery store today, they were usually accompanied by chicken pies, beef, and other meats. Wild turkeys were basically nonexistent in MA by this time, but domesticated turkeys were still raised for meat. Turkey and/or chicken was usually roasted in a “tin kitchen” reflector oven (like the one shown here) or by a string. Turkeys might also be boiled to soften the meat!

Many of the vegetables on Thanksgiving tables then are similar to those found on Thanksgiving tables today, though the exact varieties vary. Vegetables would include onions, turnips, carrots, beets, cabbage, potatoes, and squash. On a normal day, these vegetables might not be peeled unless required. Given the elevated status of Thanksgiving Day, however, these vegetables would be peeled, boiled, mashed, and/or dressed with cream, butter, or gravy.There would not be leafy greens or salads since those items were no longer in season. There might have been some pickled green vegetables, however!

Pie was an important part of the feast! It was consumed along with the meal rather than as a dessert after the meal. While pie was often on the table throughout the year, there might be more pies and/or fancier pies with more spices, refined sugar, and special ingredients for Thanksgiving Day. Popular varieties included apple pie, pumpkin pie, carrot pie (pictured here), mincemeat pie (containing beef and suet), Marlborough pudding (an apple lemon custard pie), cranberry apple pie, and more!
Check Out the Receipts (Recipes) for Marlborough Pudding, Apple and Cranberry Pie, and More Here

Other Accompaniments
Some popular meal accompaniments included:
• Turnip sauce
• Plum pudding
• Oyster sauce
• Cranberry sauce
• Gravy
• Bread and butter
• Homemade cheese
• Dried fruits and nuts

Enter the 2018 Gingerbread Contest

Entry Forms are due November 23!
The annual Gingerbread House Contest is one of the most popular events at Christmas by Candlelight! Create and register your own gingerbread house in one of several categories. Each entrant (or in the case of the family category, family) will receive 2 free passes to Christmas by Candlelight.

Learn More & Enter


November 1, 2018
November 22, 2018


Old Sturbridge Village
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road
Sturbridge, MA 01566
+ Google Map
(800) 733-1830