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By Mary Lhowe
Stories of people putting their lives on the line for principle are welcome, especially now. These stories are found throughout Plymouth, Massachusetts, where the Pilgrims landed –grossly ill-prepared but heart-strong–exactly 400 years ago.
Adults and kids can dive into lessons on civics, American history, and how to survive in the raw wilderness. Hear all the stories from the people who lived through it (via costumed role-players).
A visit to Plymouth in the Thanksgiving season is not about only the heavy historical stuff. Lodgings are offering deluxe services and many restaurants are open (see a full list of restaurants below).
But the historic sites –like Mayflower II, the replica of the original ship, which just returned to Plymouth after a four-year restoration –are the places that grab the imagination. Smart, curious, and school-deprived children will hear about plenty of death-defying adventures (kids are kids, right?).
Could the Mayflower –100 feet long and 25 feet wide, and described as looking like “a wooden bathtub with masts” –really have carried 102 people for 66 days across the wild Atlantic? How did people carry on as half of their number died in the first year in North America? What did Pilgrims think of the hearty, fur-clad Natives? And, who is in that sarcophagus on Coles Hill, overlooking Plymouth Harbor?
Lea Filson, executive director of Destination Plymouth, says Plymouth’s museum and monuments tell the whole story, including 10,000 years of Native American history and culture, the Pilgrims’ determination to escape religious tyranny in Europe, the early peace alliance in the New World, the first harvest and three-day fest in fall, 1621, and the life-saving help from the Indians.
Filson said an immersion into the Thanksgiving season would start with a turkey-and-cranberry sandwich to go from Angleo’s on Main and Leydenstreets (the latter named from the Dutch city whence the Pilgrims departed). Take your lunch, Filson suggested, and walk toward the waterfront and up Coles Hill. Look down across the harbor and Plymouth Rock, and imagine the relief and apprehension of people landing there in 1620. Look at the statue of the Indian leader Massasoit, and the sarcophagus housing bones of the Pilgrims. Walk down Coles Hill and along the waterfront; read the monuments; imagine.
A prologue to help set up this family field trip could include a visit to Plimoth Patuxet Museum (formerly Plimoth Plantation), where the Wampanoag Homesite is staffed by actual Wampanoag tribal members. Nearby, the 17th-Century English Village is a re-creation of the Pilgrims’ farming and maritime community. Townspeople will tell you all about their lives back in England, the voyage, the Mayflower compact, their debt obligations to investors, and new lives in the king’s colony. Moms and Dads: check out the Parents’ Guide.
At the Hornblower Visitor Center, buy souvenirs and dine at the Plentiful Café. Plimoth’s indoor and outdoor history sites (including Mayflower II), and gift shops are open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission tickets sold daily until 4:30 p.m.
Pilgrim Hall Museum shows artifacts owned by Pilgrims and tells their stories in painting, imagery, and displays. One of the most arresting is a graphic timeline of Pilgrims’ deaths, a vivid reminder that their spiritual preparation outmatched their understanding of life in the wilderness.
Events on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2020
“Pilgrim Progress”–this is a reenactment of the Pilgrims’ Sabbath procession to worship. Costumed participants representing survivors of the winter of 1621, assemble to the beat of a drum, proceed through town to attend a Pilgrim worship service near the site of the original fort/meetinghouse. Psalms used by the Pilgrims in Holland and in Plymouth are sung. After the service, the march continues along Main Street, ending at the Mayflower Society House via North Street.10 a.m.
National Day of Mourning March and Ceremoniesat Massasoit StatueatCole’s Hill — Organized by United American Indians of New England, the march has brought about revisions in the depiction of United States history and government as well as settler relationships with Native American peoples. The annual event is held to create a renewed appreciation for Native American culture and to protest the treatment of American Indians. Noon.
Plymouth Area Member Restaurants Open Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2020
(Reservations STRONGLY suggested)
Cabby Shack, www.cabbyshack.com, 508 746-5354
East Bay Grille, www.eastbaygrille.com, 508 746-9751
Mirbeau Inn & Spa, www.plymouth.mirbeau.com, 877-647-2328. Thanksgiving Dinner reservations required. Noon -5 p.m.
Plimoth Patuxet Museums, www.plimoth.org, 800-262-9356 ext. 8353
Sam Diego’s –www.samdiegos.com, (opens at 5:00 pm), 508 747-0048
Tavern on the Wharf, www.tavernonthewharf.com, 508 927-4961. Reservations recommended.
Cape Codder Resort & Spa, Hyannis, www.capecodderresort.com, 508 568-2935
Hearth’n Kettle Thanksgiving Complete Dinner. Reservation suggested.
Dan’l Webster Inn, Sandwich, www.danlwebsterinn.com, 508 888-3622. Thanksgiving Dinner by reservation only.