How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown

Excerpts from Scott Giantvalley's abridged publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe's
Oldtown Folks

People have supposed, because the Puritans had no public amusements, that there was no fun going on, and that there were no cakes and ale. They were never more mistaken. There was an abundance of well-considered merriment. The king of all festivals was Thanksgiving.

We felt it's approach in all departments of the household, the conversation beginning to turn to high and solemn culinary mysteries.

In those days there were none of the thousand ameliorations of housekeeping which have since arisen--no ground spices and sweet herbs. Everything came into our hands in the rough and in bulk, and the reducing of it into a state for use was deemed one of the appropriate labors of childhood.

The making of pies at this period assumed vast proportions that verged upon the sublime. Pies were made of everything on and under the earth. Pumpkin pies, plum, custard, apple and pudding pies--pies with and without crust.

What chitterings and chatterings there were all over the house as aunties and uncles and cousins came pouring in!

Who shall do justice the the dinner and describe the turkey, chickens, and that endless variety of vegetables which, without regard to the French doctrine of courses, were all piled together in jovial abundance upon the board. There was much carving, laughing, talking and eating!

The dinner being cleared away, in the evening the house was all opened and lighted with the best candles--we were to have a dance. The musician rosined his bow and tuned his fiddle.

Werever it was that the idea of the sinfulness of dancing arose in New England, I know not; it is certain that at Oldtown, the minister and his lady were present.

As nine o'clock struck, the whole scene dissolved and melted; for what well-regulated village would think of carrying festivities beyond that hour?

And so ended Thanksgiving at Oldtown.

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