Christmas Tradition

We have come to really enjoy this event.
We have come to really enjoy this event.

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.

61 thoughts on “Christmas Tradition

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    1. Thanks Judy. I know there are similar places in other parts of New England. I like to see the ways they work to keep it interesting.

      Maddie is the queen of tradition. I sat outside with her one day after work. The next day, after I got home, she went onto the porch and right up to the lawn chair I used. She does seem to be comforted by it.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. A great reminder of the many blessings, especially including heat on a -10 morning with -20 wind chill, that we have!! Sounds like a great tradition and, as we love Thai food, that part would be tasty, too. Happy Christmas week, Dan.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We tend to look back nostalgically to the ‘good old days’, but as you pointed out, a lot of it was pretty harsh. Only the strong – or incredibly lucky – survived.
    I’m glad that places like Old Sturbridge Village exists to remind us of that! It looks like a special place to explore in candlelight.

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    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this, Joanne. The interesting part of these winter visits has been a better understanding of those conditions. Our previous visits have always been in the summer, and it doesn’t seem so bad. I think living without AC is easier in New England than living without heat.

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  3. Brrrr! Thank you for visiting OSV by candlelight at 11F, so I don’t have to! Seriously, thanks for the pictures and the tour, especially the details on how people of the time would actually have dealt with the dark and cold — endured it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome Marian – We’ll probably take another bullet for you next year :)

      Maybe next year, we’ll get into some of the other buildings. We never seem to make it past the little store that sells hot chocolate. We also like to do a little Christmas shopping while we’re up there.

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  4. I like this sorta thing. I definitely remember you posting about OSV before. I probably told you that here we have Connor Prairie and that it’s really neat, but we haven’t been out that way in years.

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    1. Thanks Joey. I think I remember your mentioning that. I love places like this. I wonder if anyone will bother to preserve something that will show the folks in 2200 how we lived. Imagine trying to explain the 1960s.

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          1. Yes, perhaps. I think the thing is, no matter who you ask, or how old they were, there’s bound to be a different perspective of any time period. I thought the 80s were tacky, but delicious, because kid. :)

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            1. I got married (again) in the 80s and our daughter was born, so good decade. But, I skipped most entertainment, other than the “return to dominance” of Country Music :) Dominance might be a reach, but…

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  5. 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.

    A Paul Bunyon legend speaks to that. They say it got so cold that the flame on the candle froze – and when it thawed in the spring, it burned the house down. Couldn’t see living like that. Beautiful photos though. :)

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  6. Looks like a wonderful place, Dan. That Lionel train really sparked a memory for me. I had a cousin who had a magnificent Lionel train set. It was the envy of all in the neighbourhood. Such good memories of playing with it. Thanks for awakening those times for me.

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    1. Thanks Don. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I was tempted to ask the guy to slow the Lionel down a bit so I could get a better picture, but there were little kids watching. My cousin (lived next door) had a Lionel setup and I loved playing with that.

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  7. I love traditions and Christmas lights, but not the cold and dark. I would have been a terrible pioneer in the winter. It’s funny you mentioned Scrooge & Marley as Natasha and I went to see her daughter perform Friday night in the play with the same name. It was a cold, dark and snowy night, but well worth the trip.

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    1. I’m reasonably sure you could make better cookies. Although, no electric mixer. Other than the Small House, the buildings do have “hidden” heat. They weren’t exactly warm, but they were comfy, given that we were dressed for 11. I hope we get there during a year when there is enough snow to take the sleigh ride. I know it’s corny, but I’d like to do it.

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  8. I’ve never been to Mass in the winter (that I remember) – but have spent many a summer day at the village (afterwards fried clams at Howard Johnson’s and ice cream at Friendly’s was our tradition). My g-parents lived in the next door town of Monson.

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    1. We’ve been many times in the summer. HoJo’s is gone, Jan, but you can still get Friendly’s ice cream. I’m guessing you can get fried clams at Friendly’s as well. You had a much easier commute than we do, but we usually enjoy the ride.

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  9. I’m sighing as I write this, Dan. The gallery really touched my Heart. I especially viewed for a long time the courting house just sitting with my chin in my hand, staring at it in wonder. I cannot thank you enough for braving the elements to get these wonderful pictures. LOVED this post!! <3

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    1. Technically, there were trains running (in England) before 1830, but, you’re right. Still, it’s Christmas and there has to be a train. Scrooge & Marley agreed to lend their likeness to the Village (I’m sure there was some money changing hands).

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  10. In Colorado, at the base of Pike Peak is a place called Tiny Town that’s all lit up at Christmas time. Every building there is miniature, kind of like walking through a town of dollhouses. It costs, of course, but can be fun for kids. If you go up the road a bit you’ll come the Santa’s Workshop where the kids can talk to the old guy and see how toys used to be made long ago.

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  11. It doesn’t take much for stuff like to become tradition for our family either. Birthdays we always choose to go to our favorite Mexican restaurant, when sick we get Hot&Sour Soup from our favorite Chinese Place, Monday night family night we go to our favorite Taqueria, In the Summer we always hit the Boardwalk then our favorite BBQ place.

    I need to get downtown to see the Holiday lights. What in the world do you wear to stay warm in 11 degree cold? I’m freezing to death in the 40s! I’m wearing two layers on the bottom and 3 on top indoors already!

    I would have stayed at that Nativity Creche display for quite awhile. I love them, and miniatures of all sorts. All hand carved those! It looks wonderful and very special.

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    1. Thanks Deborah. My daughter is an avid hiker. She had real “layers” on. I had long underwear under jeans and a long sleeve Tee under a heavy shirt and a winter coat. I gave up trying to deal with gloves. I wore one, and held my camera in my pocket with the other. The cold also eats your camera’s batteries. This is the first time we’ve seen the Nativity exhibit. We stayed quite a while as the MSN explained.

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  12. Like yours our family’s traditions are quite simple. Don’t you think they are the best? One for us is also to take a walk or a car ride to see the Christmas lights around our neighborhood. Mine is to wrap the gifts, locked in my bedroom, holiday music on and hot tea in my mug. I started when our kids were little and I had to be discreet with our gifts to them. But I stuck to it and love this quiet moment.
    Of course I envy your new Old Sturbridge Village tradition. I’ve been there a few times but only in the late spring and summer. Once again no other place can beat NE when it comes to the holiday season. Enjoy these special moments with your wife and daughter, Dan. Peace to all of you.

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  13. I enjoyed my one trip to Old Sturbridge back in the noughties on my way to visit Dan from landing at Logan. Many memories of Norm Abrams picking furniture to replicate. I did a few myself, including the Shaker Wall Clock. I made about 5 of them! BTW, the train looks to be O scale – 1/4″ : 1′ – 1:48th. That always was the scale ofLionel round the tree boxes. they are a bit expensive nowadays though:-(

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  14. Ok – so I enjoyed the post and I had to stop reading comments! Those were fun too.
    And what s cool place – I like the counting house for Scrooge
    And interesting that back in the day they did not have enough wood for biting for warmth – only for cooking ….
    Makes me grateful for furnaces

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