Living History Sheds Light on the Holidays of the Past

Living History Sheds Light on the Holidays of the Past

Step back in time to a simpler day when holiday celebrations involved cooking over an open fire and illuminating homes with candlelight – the month of December offers opportunities to experience holidays celebrations of the past at three different historic villages! Families can explore, watch demonstrations, and engage in hands-on activities in order to learn about the ways in which the holiday season was honored in early New England.

Modern technology has certainly had an impact on the ways we decorate for and celebrate the winter holidays – early winter in New England now involves strings of lights and blow-up snowmen rather than windows lit by candles and evergreens adorned with cranberry strings. This holiday season, families can take a step back into the past, to a simpler time when holiday celebrations involved candles and open hearth cooking. By taking advantage of upcoming holiday-themed living history events, families can dive into the history and culture of western Massachusetts’ holidays past while adding a new tradition to their own celebrations! 


Historic Deerfield’s special holiday events not only spotlight the nature of the festivities of the past but offer opportunities for visitors to engage in hands-on activities so as to learn about the traditions that accompanied some of western Massachusetts’ earliest holiday celebrations. Historic Deerfield’s Heritage Holiday offers special events, demonstrations, activities, and learning opportunities to families every weekend in December. Every weekend of Heritage Holiday will include demonstrations of open hearth cooking and opportunities to create handmade gifts. Special holiday highlights taking place during only a handful of Heritage Holiday weekends include horse-drawn wagon rides, tavern games, letterpress printing and card-making, and opportunities to learn about the history of chocolate and make homemade hot chocolate mix. All of the demonstrations and hands-on opportunities offered as part of Heritage Holiday give families a chance to not only celebrate the holidays, but to engage with and experience firsthand the history and culture behind the traditions of the past.


Storrowton Village in West Springfield, made up of historic 18th and 19th century buildings, will come to life from December 8th through 12th for Yuletide Open House Tours, a holiday event that brings holiday cheer to the entire village. Families can visit Storrowton from 11am-3pm to explore the festively decorated village, tour historic buildings, and immerse themselves in the atmosphere of an early New England holiday season. In addition to the holiday open house, Storrowton will offer a special candlelit nighttime event on Wednesday, December 9th. Yuletide by Lantern Light brings low-tech lantern and candlelight to the village, illuminating the historic buildings in a cheery holiday glow. In addition to tours, families can see demonstrations of skills like fireplace cooking and blacksmithing from 6-8pm.


Another illuminated holiday event will take place over the course of three weekends in December. Old Sturbridge Village’s annual Christmas by Candlelight offers evenings filled with gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, sleigh rides, and all of the festivities associated with a 19th century New England holiday. The village’s streets will be filled with the music of Victorian carolers, historic buildings will house demonstrations of the making of holiday treats like mulled cider and gingerbread, and both Father Christmas and Santa Claus will be on hand for a visit. Old Sturbridge Village’s holiday celebrations highlight not only the differences in today’s holiday celebrations when compared to those of the past, but the similarities between the two as well. Families can enjoy Christmas by Candlelight on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings from 4-9pm every weekend until Christmas!


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