The best thing about Plimoth Plantation is that none of the costumed interpreters ever breaks character. When you enter the stockade village, you enter the 17th century, with all its ills, its controversies, and its hope for a better future. You leave behind the 21st century, as much as you can, and the costumed interpreters will ignore any reference you make to television, automobiles, or Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears.
Survival is what matters here, not the many affectations of a modern day affected society. The Pilgrims fought a life and death struggle for the first year of their presence in Massachusetts, which was made easier by the Wampanoag people who saved their lives by helping them to adapt. The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags were not exactly friends, but they were tenuous partners in a new experiment. Before the Pilgrims arrived, there were some 50,000 Wampanoag people in a territory around southern Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island. The plague which killed thousands of them was probably brought to them by the Europeans settlers. Relations with the survivors dwindled until King Phillips War some decades later brought culture clash to devastating confrontation.
But the way of life echoed in the harvest celebrations that eventually became our Thanksgiving is an everyday occurrence here. The interpreters will not be dissuaded from intrusive questions on their eating habits and their funny clothes. They are righteous, self-righteous, and busy. Always very busy, though not too busy to share a bit of gossip with you about a neighbor as they pluck a chicken or wipe down a table, or repair a roof.
This is what makes Plimoth Plantation special, that the interpreters do not speak of the people of the era they represent in the third person. It is never “They did this,” or “They used this tool.” It is always, “I.” They portray people who existed, and they never let us forget that fact, because here in this special place they exist still.
Thanksgiving Day at Plimoth Plantation is an extraordinary experience, but the 17th century lies waiting for us here in Plymouth, Massachusetts the rest of the year as well. It is not to be missed. But leave your century at the door.
For more on Plimoth Plantation, visit this website.
Been there? Done that? Bought the T-shirt? Let us know. Happy Thanksgiving.