It doesn’t take much for something to gain “tradition” status with us. Lunch at the Polish Deli in Pittsburgh is now a tradition. Breakfast at Eat’n Park is a tradition. Lunch, or at least a couple of beers at The Molly Wee is a long-standing tradition. Sitting on the patio with Maddie is, by her definition, a tradition. We love traditions.
One tradition that formed quickly, after just one visit, is Christmas by Candlelight. You could also call this: Old Sturbridge Village the way the people who might have lived in a place like Sturbridge Village would have experienced Christmas. In other words, Cold and dark. Cold and dark, but magical.
Our daughter gave us a membership at Old Sturbridge Village a couple of years ago. I’ve written about it before. Once when we went to see Norm Abrams and last year, when I featured the doors of Christmas by Candlelight on a Thursday Doors post. This year, with door photos out of the way, directions to Sturbridge Village more secure in our minds and a plan to leave early enough to have dinner, we were ready for an even better experience.
We did leave earlier, but our tighter grasp on the Village’s location was more tenuous than we imagined. There is a sign on the highway that says: “Sturbridge Village, Exit-9.” There is a sign on Rt-20 (the road at the end of Exit-9) that says: “Sturbridge Village ¼ mile.” A quarter of a mile later, there is no sign that says “Sturbridge Village.” No, there’s just traffic and dark and businesses that don’t look anything like the entrance to Sturbridge Village.
We drove more than ¼ of a mile.
We drove more than ½ of a mile.
We turned around, parked, googled, zoomed, and finally identified a Thai restaurant that appeared to be across from the entrance road to OSV. Seriously, if OSV ever has a fundraiser to raise money for better signage, I’ll donate.
Our desired to be early, was
two three perhaps more-fold in nature. We wanted a better parking space. Better, as in closer to the actual entrance, since it was about 11°f (-11°c). We wanted more time to spend walking around. We wanted to be able to visit some of the live exhibits, and we wanted to eat at the Tavern.
We arrived much earlier than we had last year. We got a much better parking space. But, the Tavern was closed. We gave up our parking space and headed back to the Thai restaurant we used as a GPS target. We enjoyed a very nice dinner, something that may now be a tradition.
Although we lost a good parking spot, the tour of OSV was charming. We visited the “Small House” which is an authentic home from the era, meaning no insulation and no heat. The man and woman inside, who were roasting chestnuts over an open fire, explained that people who lived in the 1830s, would never have tried heating their house with wood. There simply wasn’t enough wood to do the job. They only used the fireplace for cooking. They stayed warm by wearing layers, drinking hot beverages and sleeping close together.
We visited the Meeting House where a trio of men were playing traditional instruments and singing old Christmas carols, and we visited the village store. The store’s shelves made it clear that you didn’t buy “things” in 1830, you bought ingredients. You bought the stuff to bake and otherwise prepare food. You bought cloth and thread and made clothes. You bought tools with which you could chop wood, assemble crude furniture and cultivate a garden. If you were feeling flush, maybe you treated yourself to a basket to harvest your fruit and veggies.
We visited a counting house labeled “Scrooge & Marley” which featured a Muppet-like Ebenezer and Bob Cratchit. We visited the house next door where the Ghost of Christmas Present greeted us with a hearty “Come and know me better” as he sat in front of a Christmas tree. In the back room, they were roasting a goose, making plum pudding and serving traditional cookies – dry and sad, but I could get used to them.
We stood for a while in front of a bonfire, and then toured a few other spaces. We skipped some buildings, but I think we’ll have another chance next year. We did visit the building that had a model train setup. I know there weren’t trains in the time period of OSV, but I’m not passing up a train.
As far as traditions go, this is a good one. If you live in southern New England, I’d highly recommend adding this to your holiday plans. Before jumping into the gallery, I’d like to thank the OSV staff and many volunteers who work so hard throughout the year, and especially when it’s 11°f (-11°c) to allow us to escape back in time, to learn and to better appreciate those who came before us.