That Christmas Tradition

Friday, our daughter Faith and I attended Old Sturbridge Village’s (OSV) Christmas by Candlelight annual celebration. We love this event! It’s cold, it’s dark and we’re wandering through a village straight out of the 1830s. It was cold and dark then and it’s wonderful to experience the holiday season as they might have. OK, it’s also wonderful knowing that my car has heated seats.

One of the things we like most about OSV is the way that, no matter how often we visit, we experience new things each time. This time, the different things were readings. We’ve gone into the Meeting House and heard Biblical readings in the past. This time, we listened to a woman reading “A Christmas Carol.” The story wasn’t written until 1843, but life would have been much the same. What I do think would have been the same was reading. Let’s face it, there wasn’t much else to do after a long day’s labor. I would imagine that people who had books might read to people who didn’t.

In any case, it felt good to be there, sitting on a hard pew, bundled against the cold and listening to a wonderful interpretation of a true classic. Of course, as we listened, Faith was imagining “The Muppet Christmas Carol” and I was imagining the 1984 version staring George C. Scott as Scrooge.

We walked around for a while after that and wandered back into the village green. A man (in period costume of course) was standing by a large bonfire and was about to read, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the poem by Clement Clarke Moore. He directed his gaze to a few children, but his voice, his gestures, and the way he placed emphasis on all the right words made us all feel like children.

The normal things that we did include visiting the cabinet maker’s workshop, the shoemaker’s workshop, the general store, the tin shop, the model train exhibit, the pottery shop and the walk around the trail of lighted Christmas trees. We also stopped for a bracing cup of hot chocolate with Peppermint Schnapps added for the season.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. I’m trying to have shorter posts between now and January.

87 comments

  1. Thank you for this. I know that human nature was then what it is now, but there is a lovely suggestion that it wasn’t, that life was peaceful and orderly, that a simple way of life was satisfying. I want to ignore the colossal work load everyone shouldered. How wonderful to time travel back and imagine. As for hearing “The Christmas Carol,” I’d be picturing Albert Finney’s “Scrooge,” which I watch every year. Reading the original Dickens’ version always gives me the creeps, so I read “Pickwick Papers” instead at Christmas time and go back to Christmas at Dingley Dell. Maybe we all escape to somewhere at Christmas.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And my wife would be picturing Alastair Sim – we all have our favorite. Listening to the interpreters at OSV helps remind us of some of the drawbacks. They only built a fire to cook. Not to heat the house. Little things, but they survived and many thrived and they moved us forward to the life we enjoy. We always enjoy our visit and we appreciate the skilled craftsmen and women who help us make that time travel.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a wonderful tradition you and Faith have created. OSV does a magnificent job of recreating a time gone by and all the participants seem to take their part very seriously.

    As always, you took great pictures. I can feel the cold just looking at them. It must’ve felt good to walk by the bonfires!

    I agree with Oddment, although life back then had to be hard work, I think people were happy and content. Perhaps because they were satisfied with the simple pleasures life affords us.

    I’m sure you both enjoyed the spiked hot chocolate! And then the heated car seats on the way home!!

    Another sweet memory for you and Faith. Treasure it.
    Ginger

    Liked by 2 people

    • We look forward to the Early Bird ticket sale every year. It’s part of the season now. I think you see different things based on who is working – they’re all volunteers, so you can’t complain if your favorite guy wasn’t there.

      The thought of walking to the church to hear Mr. Soandso read “A Christmas Carol” and maybe someone made cookies (they were baking mincemeat cookies in one house), sounds like a wonderful night out.

      It was cold, but that adds to the experience. I’m glad you enjoy what ends up being an annual post.

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  3. Faith, New England history, and covered bridges decorated with trees and lights – it doesn’t get a lot better, well except for that spiked hot chocolate you enjoyed. I appreciate working hard because there is some mental calculation involved, a beginning, middle and end which results in a good night’s sleep. Simple times that I think I would have appreciated, well, except for the women’s clothing. I think I would have borrowed a pair of men’s pants and then embarrassed the family. :-) Great photos.

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    • Haha – one guy explained that the reason we see pictures of men working the fields in top hats is because they kept wearing their old hats for work when they got a new one for church. They recycled their own clothes from dress quality to work clothes. One guy talked about a pair of pants they have in the archive with a patch sewn onto a previous patch. I always sleep better after a good day’s work.

      Good luck with the game tonight.

      Liked by 1 person

        • He should add, “Dan’s blood pressure is spiking” to his comments. My wife often wears my old dress shirts when working outside. She doesn’t do well with the sun. She has nice shirts, but if she’s working where they might get snagged, she’ll wear an old one of mine.

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  4. Always, always love a jaunt through Old Sturbridge Village. Beautiful photos, Dan. Even though it was a chilly visit, magic is everywhere present. Thank you! 🎄❄🎄

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a special place for us. I know there are places like this all over the states, and I think that’s a good thing. We can learn from the past. I’ll have to search for that movie, I’m not familiar,

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dan, I swear I got a chill just looking at your photos. But bundled up with something hot to sip on I would enjoy this so much. I agree about the George C Scott portrayal of Scrooge although my all time favorite is Alistair Sim’s Scrooge. He was like a child, moving through the emotional phases of Dickens’ forlorn and lonely schoolboy turned bitter financier. The scene with his nephew’s wife and him dancing make me cry. Every time.
    I would loved seeing all those Christmas trees.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You and my wife and Alistair Sim’s version. I do like it, but I think George C. Scott’s version is quite true to the story. They never show it, but I found it on YouTube. I was anticipating the version with Patrick Stewart, but I was disappointing. He was good as Scrooge, but the other characters were not up to his level, IMO.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Dan, I love that you and Faith keep this annual tradition. It’s something you can look forward to every year. My favorite photos are the general store and the bonfire because who doesn’t need food and warmth, especially back in the 1800’s. Glad you had a good time and stayed bundled up. Happy holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mary. I’m glad I haven’t bored you to tears with this recurring blog post, but we do find something new to like each time we visit. The splash of Peppermint Schnapps does make that hot chocolate go down even easier.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This looks like a wonderful event. There is nothing like being read to. Once at a staff Christmas dinner party, our boss read a story to us. We were all mesmerized, like little children. I told him later it was the best Christmas gift he could have given us. I love the picture of the wood fired kiln.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lovely post Dan. I live very close to the Town Charles Dickens loved and lived in. It’s full of memories of him and places he loved. I often go there. The people of the town are extremely proud of this. I’ve actually stood in the room where “A Christmas Carol” was purported to be written.

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  9. That poem by Moore is my all time favorite and the first one I remember reading from one of my mother’s books of poem and literature.

    The magazines in the General Store took me right to my bookshelf. Back in 2005-2006 I subscribed to the Discovering Dickens magazine published by Stanford University. It was reproduced to look just as it did when first released back in 1854. The first story was Hard Times brought to me in 10 issues- one a week. I also received a few more stories. The covers look almost exactly like those blue paper ones on the shelf at the General store!

    The Christmas Carol is George C. Scott is my favorite as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t think I heard that poem being read out loud since I read it to our daughter.

      You have a sharp eye to see those magazines.

      I will watch A Christmas Carol, several times between now and Christmas.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Dan – I’m going off to back Alastair Sim – loved that version. But Christmas traditions are always special to visit or be involved in … and it’s great you and Faith are carrying on your traditional visits. Lovely photos and I can see your interest in what’s going on there … I’d be near the bonfires! Enjoy the build ups as we move along to the 25th … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Hilary – we have been going for many years. We had to sneak in lat year, as Massachusetts had banned visitors from Connecticut (it’s only about 50 yards over the line). I hope you have a wonderful week.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I always enjoy reading about and seeing your photos of this yearly visit. It’s hard to imagine how cold these people were on a daily basis during fall/winter/spring. For some years when we went to Wyoming, we regularly stay in a cabin that was heated by a really excellent wood-burning stove and even then in the summer (but at 7,000+’, it was cold until we got the fire going. And they didn’t have all the good cold-weather clothing we do now. Hardy people!

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  12. As a history buff, I can certainly see the appeal of learning more about how past eras did things, but any kind of cold-weather experience… eh, there’s a reason, as you say, we developed heated car seats. I’m sure the people back then would be glad to experience some of our comforts, and be a bit baffled at our desire to replicate their situation!

    Oh, and kudos on the shout-out to the George C. Scott version of “A Christmas Carol.” There are some other fine versions, no question, but that one is my favorite. Scott is excellent in the part, and the script is so close to the original book. I would also recommend “An American Christmas Carol” (1979), which tells Dickens’s tale in Depression-era New England. Really well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m not a Charles Dickens fan in any guise – apart from the Muppets version, that definitely worked for me! And I really love the look of old wooden covered bridges, but sadly we don’t have any here in the UK :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Dan – you captured the Christmas spirit in this post. Going back into history is a way to connect with the overarching story of humanity. I laughed out loud when I read about the cold and dark of the past, but now you have heated car seats. I have spent many hours sitting in a hard pew(I’m a minister’s daughter) and listening to the gentle story of peace on earth, joy to the world and goodwill to mankind. Many thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Nothing beats listening to a story, isn’t it?
    One of our Christmas traditions – and one we love – involves choosing a Christmas tree at the market. But only possible if we’re in Romania. Here it comes out of the closet.

    Ah, the importance of having a tradition that connects generations… thank you for this lovely reminder, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Dan, this was absolutely wonderful! I know how you and Faith enjoy this Christmas tradition together. Hearing someone read aloud A Christmas Carol in that atmosphere must have been very special! Love the photos!

    Liked by 1 person

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