I’m not sure how many times something has to happen before it’s a tradition, but Faith and I have been going to Old Sturbridge Village’s Christmas by Candlelight event for several years, so I’m calling it. We got lost one time, because we were following the instructions of both Greta and some iPhone-based GPS – Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) leads you to the education center – and we discovered that there is a Thai Restaurant across from the entrance road. The Thai Place has become our landmark destination and our tradition now includes dinner after the tour. I’ve written about this before, which is why I altered the title.
We’ve been to OSV for this event in the rain, in snow and in sub-freezing cold. Last year, the temperature was in single-digits Fahrenheit (minus teens Celsius) and the wind-chill was well below zero degrees Fahrenheit. We stood in line inside the gift shop for 20 minutes to buy a cup of hot chocolate.
This year, the temps were milder, 42°f (5.6°c), and the rain that was in the forecast had been pushed out until after midnight. We toured the Gingerbread House contest, we cast our votes (I took door photos which I will share next December) and we stepped outside to begin our tour at the “Small House.” As always, they were roasting chestnuts over an open fire, and giving samples to the guests, but this year, one of the costumed historians was explaining the sad history of the American Chestnut tree and how it was wiped out by a fungus. The blight began around 1900, and it decimated a forest staple that at one time had accounted for one out of every four trees along the east coast. The period guide repeated a common claim from the 1830s, that stated “a squirrel could travel from Maine to Georgia without touching the ground” – I think Sammy and Smokey would like that
Other historians were making shoes, forming cups on a potter’s wheel, making tin Christmas ornaments, running model trains, telling stories, cooking a turkey, baking shortbread cookies, showing off a Nativity (and other) scenes from a collection that has been 50 years in the making, and offering short religious readings in The Meeting House. Faith and both commented that the event seemed livelier this year. One building that I always enjoy touring, a large barn, had been turned into a refreshment center. They were offering food and drink, so we decided to get our hot chocolates there instead of at the store. There was a good-sized line, but it was moving quickly. We were pleased to find that our hot chocolates could be spiced-up with Bailey’s or Peppermint Schnapps. “Two with Schnapps please.”
We skipped trying to warm ourselves by the bonfire in the green – it just wasn’t necessary, and we skipped visiting the Town House, because beverages are not permitted. We weren’t throwing the cocoa away. We often skip the Law Office when we tour the grounds during the year, because law offices, but during Christmas by Candlelight, the small building is recast as Scrooge & Marley’s Counting House. My favorite stop, well, besides the model trains, was the print shop. The printer explained the press and regaled us with fun facts and odd stories about the economics of living, marrying and raising a family in the 1830s, and the sad facts of dying alone in that time.
In looking at the museum map, I realized that there are still few buildings we haven’t visited. In addition, they have recently reestablished the Cabinet Maker’s Shop on the grounds. I think a warm weather visit will be on this year’s agenda.