Updated: 11/8/2019 //
I had myself a merry little Plimoth Plantation Thanksgiving this year. Fine. I’ll admit it. I’m a nerd. There–ya happy?
I guess there’s no denying it. If you are one of the lucky few who ate Lembas bread at my wedding or have accompanied me in my Minnie Mouse ears on a journey through Spaceship Earth then you probably weren’t surprised to hear how I spent my Thanksgiving this year.
(⇡ Look, I learned some new HTML!)
I know this negates all those times I tried really hard to be cool–like when I became a flying trapeze artist or joined my high school newspaper staff. Actually, I think I may have been going about this the wrong way all along. But JNCOs are still in, right?
Obviously, attempting to fit in with the cool kids has been a bigger failure than that time I tried out for the cheerleading squad. I was so concerned my comically thick glasses were going to fly off across the gymnasium in some sort of popularity Hail Mary that I looked more like a chihuahua trying to keep its head above water than a 12-year-old doing a cartwheel.
I tell you this because, at 33 years old, I no longer give a flying fig about taking the nerdy path through life. A path that led me straight to Colonial New England in a handbasket.
WHAT IS PLIMOTH PLANTATION?
Officially, Plimoth Plantation is a cornucopia of sites (lil T-giving humor there) located in Plymouth, Massachusetts dedicated to preserving the history of 17th century Colonial America that provides “an engaging and experiential outdoor and indoor learning environment.” It was started in 1947 by a guy named Henry Hornblower II so go ahead and check your Fonz at the door ’cause ain’t no cool welcome here. It’s located just minutes from where the Mayflower landed in 1620 and where it all began for us Americans–shoes with buckles and maxi skirts, that is.
It consists of a re-creation of a 17th century English village and Wampanoag Homesite, a visitor center, a craft center, the Plimoth (how they spell it sometimes) Grist Mill, and the Mayflower II (a seaworthy replica of the original Mayflower they take out occasionally for speed racing and booze cruises. Okay, I made that last part up). They have costumed role players on staff with whom you can discuss all sorts of Pilgrim-related issues like religious oppression and who gave whom Leptospirosis. The Wampanoag Homesite employs actual Native people in historically accurate clothing who aren’t playing a role and can freely talk with you about Snapchat without getting fired.
Unofficially, they have a llama so none of that other stuff matters.
I swear to you–as I live and breathe–that as I write this, a lone wild turkey just tip-toed past the window right next to me.
WHY A PLIMOTH PLANTATION THANKSGIVING?
I like to travel, obviously, but not just from place to place–but also, back in time. More than just visiting museums or sites and learning by looking, I prefer to learn through experience, by feeling like I’m actually in another time. You can watch all the Harry Potter you want on TBS but until you visit Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter–taste that butterbeer, talk to a shrunken head, look those goblins in their animatronic eyes–you will never be able to relate to those little wizards of 1997. ‘Twas a simpler time back then. ‘Twas a simpler time.
In this same sense, I love unique and authentic experiences–like enjoying hot chocolate and fondue on a Swiss mountain, attending a luau in Hawaii or getting robbed in Italy. And what is more authentic than a Thanksgiving dinner at the site of THE FIRST THANKSGIVING while a lady in a bonnet belts out a Puritan hymn, hmm?
Plimoth Plantation is the hub for all things breeches and petticoats and really… during what other time of the year do Pilgrims come up in conversation? This is pretty much it for them, y’all.
But in addition to my own nerdy logic, you should also choose a Plimoth Plantation Thanksgiving for these reasons:
- a full and authentic dinner — the exact meal served at the first “official” Thanksgiving after Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863
- Yes, there’s a bar.
- Your dinner ticket includes admission to all Plimoth Plantation sites (It’s great to learn, ’cause knowledge is power!)
- It’s not every day you get to ask random strangers things like: “Can I hold your musket?”
PLIMOTH PLANTATION THANKSGIVING DINNER
Plimoth Plantation Thanksgiving offers two dining options: the “America’s Thanksgiving Dinner”–the traditional sit-down Thanksgiving meal we all know, love, and blame for our familial animosity–and the most blatantly American of all dining options, the buffet.
I chose America’s Thanksgiving Dinner because it seems to be the more popular option but also because I’m lazy and I want my food brought to me so I don’t have to get up. Hi, my name is Ashley and I’m thankful for people who still work in the service industry despite the thankless career that it is. Besides, it’s always fun to have more silverware than you know what to do with. “Which fork do I use?! THERE ARE SO MANY FORKS!”
You’re seated at tables of eight or more so you’ll most likely dine with strangers–just like at the first Thanksgiving when the Pilgrims and Indians came together to talk smack about King James behind his back. Only now the strangers are half Irish and half Asian with one random Italian thrown in for good measure who expectedly eats all the food then begs the guy who refills the water for more beets.
You’re served “family-style” out of bowls so big and plentiful that you simply have nowhere to put them so you just sit there with a cauldron of butternut squash in one hand and a platter of bird in the other, secretly hoping beyond all hope that no one takes the wing while your hands are full. You consider yanking it off the plate with your teeth but decide against it partly because there’s now a baby at your table staring at you relentlessly while gumming a celery stalk and it just sorta freaks you out.
You’re served seconds and even thirds–as much food as you can stomach–because this is America and if stuffing yourself until you’re on the cusp of vomiting isn’t as much a Thanksgiving tradition as football and snapping a bird’s clavicle in half for good luck, I don’t know what is!
Before and after dinner you’re personally visited by famous Pilgrims like Myles Standish and… you know… that other one? They recount tales of crossing the Atlantic to go against the crown and start their own church, being among the first Europeans to spearhead a campaign in the New World but you just want to know more about how much beer the Mayflower could hold and who did and didn’t get scurvy. Also, what is scurvy? And they’re happy to oblige.
Native people in traditional dress will visit your table as well. They’ll describe to you the historically accurate outfits they’re wearing and you’ll sad-face-emoji all over your green beans listening to the menagerie that once roamed the land but now fills their closets. Some of their clothing is actually looking back at you. But you’re still jealous of how warm they look–pleather just isn’t what it used to be.
These are not role players because they are actually Native Americans. “Guy who occasionally paints himself and entertains folks at the Plimoth Plantation” is his actual role. Just as “Girl who occasionally showers and entertains folks on the internet” is mine. You know what–that sounded better in my head. Scratch that last statement from the record, por favor.
VISITING THE PLANTATION
After dinner, provided the button on your pants hasn’t popped off into someone’s mashed potatoes and you can still stand upright(ish), it’s time to head outside and explore the Plantation. Follow the path away from the building and into a land chock full of bonnets, braids, and British accents for another truly American tradition: getting your damn money’s worth!
Y’all. It’s happening again. I’m writing this part the next day and the turkey is back. He’s just sitting outside my window letting snow accumulate on his feathers. I threw an old bagel at him. I hope he eats it. Do turkeys eat bagels?
(Here’s where you say, “Maybe, if he’s not already *stuffed*…” Hey-ooo!)
The Wampanoag people are a Native American tribe whose name means “Easterners” or literally, “People of the Dawn.” Isn’t that lovely? You almost wouldn’t know the majority of their tribe was decimated by disease passed along through rat urine. Hmm.
They settled mostly in eastern Massachusetts (check out this map) and were a matrilineal society where woman controlled the property and hereditary status was passed on through the maternal line. As it should be since the next generation literally comes out of the women. #girlpower
Plimoth Plantation’s Wampanoag Homesite offers visitors the chance to experience one of their 17th century settlements while learning about the culture from native locals. You can explore a couple of their shelters, watch how they make canoes and cook food, and ask all the questions you want. Sit by the fire to thaw out or relive all your childhood fantasies of living alone in the woods or on a deserted island in the Pacific. ⇠ Wow, I would’ve made an awful cheerleader. “….gimme an N! N! Gimme an E! E! What’s that spell? ‘For The Love Of God, Leave Me Alone!‘ Wooooo!”
17TH CENTURY ENGLISH VILLAGE
Here you will observe “Pilgrims” in their natural habitat(ish), going about their daily lives: gardening, sharpening sticks for unknown reasons, randomly breaking into song, and not finding it weird at all that a bunch of futuristic aliens are asking them questions like, “So what do Pilgrims do when they’re on their period?”
What?! Legit inquiry!
Again, this is their day–oblige them accordingly. The same way your loved ones do on your birthday, your wedding anniversary, and that time your plane had not one, but two emergency landings in one day. I earned every one of those beers that day. “We fixed the problem”… lying sons of bitches.
You can wander through their farms (to get to the goats), stroll the neighborhood (to get to the chickens), ask the guy with the explosive charge about his musket (he works here, right?), even go inside their homes to see how these 17th century English colonists lived… then thank all that is good and pure that you were born 400 years later in the time of the tampon.
Maybe watching ladies in stockings churning butter isn’t really your “thing” but don’t forget there are also guys with beards and axes and that never gets old.
THE CRAFT CENTER
In another attempt at being “cool” as a youngster, my friend and I started our own business making and selling friendship bracelets. We had all colors, designs, price points, and we toted them around the neighborhood in a display case. And by “display case” I really mean they were Scotch-taped to the inside of a Lisa Frank 2-pocket folder with unicorns on the outside. (Yup, that’s the one. Be still my adolescent heart!)
Unfortunately, my talent came way too late as I would have killed it in Colonial America. They had weavers and potters, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. And the fact that these hobbies were necessary for the survival of their people automatically exempted them from getting beat up on the school bus!
The craft center at Plimoth Plantation offers live demonstrations of these crafts by skilled artisans but if you want to get together and braid some colored string, I’m sure we can work something out. I can make you a kickass anklet that will go great with those buckled booties. Everyone in the village will be like, “Hark! What in the Heavens is that sorcery around thou ankle?! Colors are the work of the devil… To the gallows!” It’ll be great. Bring your sleeping bag.
I think I speak for all beekeepers when I say, “Whaaa?!” As a beekeeper myself I can vouch for the fact that we look way cooler now and not at all like something from a horror movie. Unless that movie is about an infectious disease because we do kind of look like Hazmat containment personnel. And I feel like saying that beekeepers look “cool” speaks volumes about my propensity for girl-only birthday parties until I was well out of college.
PLIMOTH PLANTATION THANKSGIVING // THINGS TO KNOW
For starters, tickets for Plimoth Plantation Thanksgiving go on sale in the summer–May 1st for members and June 1st for the rest of us muggles. If interested, you should probably go ahead and set yourself a calendar reminder because I know, for me, the only thing I’m concerned with basting in June is muh-self on the beach. Can I get a non-denominational AMEN!
You should also know the Plimoth Plantation Thanksgiving dinners sell out in a matter of days. I bought my tickets on June 2nd. By June 3rd there were no more. It’s like… the hottest show to hit the New World since 1492.
There are three dining times on Thanksgiving Thursday and one on the following Friday. So if eating dinner at 11 AM is your thing, you’re in luck. You’re also probably living in a dorm eating last night’s leftover pizza straight outta your mini-fridge.
If you choose the 2:30 PM or the 6 PM dinner, be sure to arrive early to explore the Plantation BEFORE you eat. If this is your first time to the 1600s you may notice electricity hasn’t been invented yet and it’s dark as crap.
There’s a barn by the parking lot that has some goats and a llama. It’s easy to miss. But don’t–this is not a drill!
And last but not least, bags of acorns are on sale for $10 in the gift shop.
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