01 of 10
Holiday Traditions: Yule Log and Stockings
Early New Englanders didn't celebrate Christmas, but at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, holiday season visitors have an opportunity to learn about when Christmas did arrive in the region and to explore mid-19th-century holiday traditions.
Inside the Parsonage, for example, guests learn about the three-candle Yule log and about how the tradition of hanging stockings by the chimney evolved from the Dutch tradition of leaving shoes by the fireplace for St. Nicholas to fill. My friend, Jessica, and I visited Old Sturbridge Village during an evening "Christmas Traditions by Candlelight" program in December of 2004. Join us on this photo tour as we explore Old Sturbridge Village decorated for the holiday season. We'll learn about other early Christmas customs and maybe even run into Father Christmas.
For information on this year's holiday season events at Old Sturbridge Village, visit the attraction's Web site or call toll free, 800-SEE-1830.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
02 of 10
Making Mulled Cider the Old-Fashioned Way
Inside The Parsonage at Old Sturbridge Village, we also got to taste hot mulled cider prepared the old-fashioned way. We watched eagerly as costumed interpreters stirred the cider with a hot iron from the kitchen fireplace, creating a sweet, caramel aroma that filled the house.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
03 of 10
A Horse-Drawn Holiday Ride
Horse-drawn wagon or sleigh rides around The Common are offered at Old Sturbridge Village during the holidays. The clip-clop of horses' hooves adds the perfect sound effect for a charming tour of the Village during the Christmas season.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
04 of 10
Dressed for Christmas
The Salem Towne House is an upscale residence that dates to 1796. It was moved to Old Sturbridge Village from Charlton, Massachusetts, in 1952. During the holiday season, the Towne House sports traditional pine roping and other holiday decorations, such as a fruit wreath on the door, typical of a mid-19th-century Christmas celebration in New England.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Sights and Sounds of an Old-Fashioned New England Christmas
Inside the Salem Towne House, holiday season visitors to Old Sturbridge Village have an opportunity to learn about the evolution of the custom of gift giving and to view a dining room filled with old-fashioned holiday foods and confections. In this photo, you'll see a patriotic Christmas tree and other holiday decorations, but unless you head to Old Sturbridge Village yourself, you won't hear the sounds of a costumed guide playing Christmas tunes on the piano in the corner.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
06 of 10
More Holiday Melodies
As we continue around The Common at Old Sturbridge Village, we venture next inside the Fitch House, where a flute player in period costume provides a lively musical backdrop of holiday melodies.Continue to 7 of 10 below.
07 of 10
Fruitcake, Wassail and Tabletop Trees
According to research done by Old Sturbridge Village, New Englanders began to mark the Christmas holiday in a tangible way by the 1830s and '40s. Inside the Fitch House, costumed guides explain the origins of Christmas traditions such as fruitcake and wassail. We learned, as well, about tabletop trees such as the one in this picture. The first recorded tabletop tree in New England was one created by a German professor at Cambridge in 1835. Tabletop trees were decorated with treats for the children, and once unveiled, were quickly un-decorated.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
08 of 10
Scents of the Season
Our next stop was the Fenno House, where we had an opportunity to savor the scents of the season. First, we enjoyed the aroma of roasting chestnuts and learned that, heated properly, chestnuts do not go "pop, pop, pop!" In this photo, a costumed interpreter offers us a sample of gingerbread, which smelled every bit as wonderful as it tasted.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Inside The Parsonage Barn, Old Sturbridge Village visitors had an opportunity to join in a Christmas carol sing-a-long. Christmas by Candlelight events, held on select Friday through Sunday evenings in December, feature a variety of musical and dance performances, not only in the barn but also in the Visitor Center and the Center Meetinghouse. We stayed for a rousing rendition of "Deck the Halls," then made a beeline for the Bullard Tavern.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
10 of 10
A Quiet Moment for Father Christmas
Here's an image you don't see very often: Father Christmas enjoys a quiet moment by the fire inside the Bullard Tavern at Old Sturbridge Village. Soon, he's likely to be surrounded by young visitors who want to know why he's not fat. And what's with the burgundy robe instead of a bright red suit? He'll happily explain that 19th-century New Englanders knew nothing of our modern Santa Claus. Christmas by Candlelight events at Old Sturbridge Village feature readings of "A Visit from St. Nicholas," a nice way to end an evening of exploring New England traditions from yesteryear. For information on holiday season events at Old Sturbridge Village, visit the attraction's Web site or call toll free, 800-SEE-1830.