The Thanksgiving celebration in Williamsburg starts well before Thanksgiving Day. People travel from near and far to attend the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival, which takes place each year during the first week in November. This annual event is held at Berkeley Plantation which is said to be the site of the first Havest Festival in 1619 when 38 new English settlers arrived safely at Berkeley Plantation. The Colonists gathered on the banks of the James River to give thanks for their safe arrival in the new world. Giving thanks each year on that day became a tradition.
Traditionally this day was marked each year with a Harvest Celebration where the Colonists would celebrate the fruits of their labor and give thanks. Similar to today’s tradition, they would celebrate by sharing a feast. Their bounty usually included fowl, fish, lobster, fruits, vegetables (mostly corn) & wheat pudding. Sorry, no pumpkin pie for the Colonists. Sugar was a rare treat and most did not have ovens available to them for baking.
Today in Williamsburg, celebrating Thanksgiving is like stepping back in time. The traditions are based in part on the history of the colonies. A great way to start the day is with a walk down Duke Of Glouchester Street (Dog Street to the locals), where you can see bakers dressed in period costumes bringing baskets of goodies. You may even run into “Thomas Jefferson” who has been known to make an appearance, shakes some hands and sometimes even has a few words of wisdom to offer.
Thanksgiving dinner in Colonial Williamsburg today consists of foods from all over as well as the traditional turkey with all the fixins. If you would prefer to let someone else do the cooking, there are a plethora of Williamsburg restaurants & taverns offering bountiful feasts with employees dressed in period attire.