New England’s Largest Revolutionary War-era Military Reenactment Celebrates 10 Years!

Old Sturbridge Village ‘Redcoats & Rebels’
New England’s largest military reenactment in New England celebrates 10 years!
August 3rd & 4th, 2013

Forget history books with boring dates and dry facts. One of the best ways to learn about the Revolutionary War is to talk to a military reenactor. Most of the soldiers participating in the Redcoats & Rebels have meticulously researched the Revolutionary War history of the actual units they portray.  These amateur historians can tell you what it feels like to fire a musket or cannon, what the food tasted like, what it sounds like in battle, and how hot the uniforms were. And they know lots of interesting, little-known facts about military life when our country was young.

The Redcoats are coming, the Redcoats are coming! Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) will be transformed into a Revolutionary War-era military encampment on August 3rd and 4th, offering families a chance to learn about the soldiering life in the 18th century – up close and personal! Redcoats and Rebels is an annual event at OSV, and features reenactment groups representing both the British and American armies.

As the largest reenactment event in New England, Redcoats and Rebels offers a myriad of demonstrations, performances, and other educational events, all designed to completely immerse visitors in the culture, sights, and sounds of war-era early New England…

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Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines

Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines
The Roots of Valentine’s Day Traditions
Old Sturbridge Village: Feb. 9th & 10th

Historians at Old Sturbridge Village will celebrate the history of Valentines in America and demonstrate old-fashioned chocolate-making with “Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines,” a weekend program set for Saturday and Sunday Feb. 9-10, 2013. – UPDATE: Due to the impending storm, the Village will be closed, Friday, February 8 and Saturday, February 9.

[02/08/13 UPDATE: OSV will be closed Sat., Feb. 9th and opened Sun. Feb. 10th]

The tradition of having chocolate on Valentine’s Day is a longstanding one – it has been around since the early days of New England, even!  Today’s Valentine’s traditions tend not to involve a lot of homemade chocolate or laborious preparations, however – usually we buy our chocolates at the grocery store or, in the most thoughtful of cases, from a local candy shop.  However, early Americans spent a lot of time preparing their delicious chocolate foods – a tradition that families can learn about this weekend at Old Sturbridge Village!

The village’s annual Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines offers families a chance to learn about the history of chocolate – how it was prepared, where it came from, and how it was eaten.  Cacao beans were processed and ground by early New Englanders in order to create things like a spicy hot chocolate-style drink or a chocolate cake – with a surprising secret ingredient!  There will be both displays and demonstrations from which families can learn about 19th century chocolate-making techniques.  Do you know where the first Americans were supplied their chocolate from?  Before visiting, watch a video on the history of chocolate to learn some useful background information on the process of acquiring and preparing cocoa beans!

Along with chocolate, Valentine’s Day brings the sharing of valentine cards!  Since the roots of this tradition are local, the village will have special educational programs and hands-on activities on this topic, too!  Families can learn about the Worcester resident whose humble handmade card business blossomed into a large card-making company and, eventually, the huge tradition of Valentine’s Day cards that we have today.  Then, make your own valentines to share – inspired by images of antique cards shared by villages in the 1800’s.

Families can use a visit to the village to make this Valentine’s Day an educational one, rather than a commercialized one!  Students can exerience the roots of some of the traditions that they participate in, and will learn to better understand early American culture.  The village is open from 9:30am-4pm on both Saturday, February 9th and Sunday, February 10th.  More information and a complete schedule of events is available on the village’s website.

Did You Know?


  • Spanish conquistadors brought chocolate from Central America back to Spain in the 16th century.  From there, it traveled through Europe, to England, and back to America.
  • Early versions of “chocolate cake” do not actually contain any chocolate. The name means that the cake was intended to be enjoyed with a cup of chocolate, just as “coffee cake” today is meant to be served with coffee.
  • Boston pharmacists advertised chocolate as a medicinal remedy as early as 1712, and by the late 1700s, there were hundreds of chocolate vendors in the city.
  • Chocolate was drunk as a medicine during the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and by California Gold Rush miners, but later in the 19th century, with the addition of milk and more sugar, chocolate was preferred more as a confection than as a health tonic.
  • New manufacturing processes developed during the Industrial Revolution transformed chocolate from an expensive drink into an inexpensive food.  By the late 1800s, chocolate was widely advertised to women and children through colorful posters and trade cards, and its iconic status as the world’s preferred candy was secured.


  • The best known legend about St. Valentine has that he was a Roman martyr killed for his faith on February 14, 269 A.D. He may have been a priest who married couples in spite of the Emperor’s ban.
  • Valentine’s Day, like Christmas and many other Christian holidays, was originally an attempt to Christianize popular pagan festivals.  In pagan Rome, February 14 was dedicated to the goddess Juno (Hera in Greek mythology), wife of Jupiter (Zeus) and patroness of women and marriage.
  • Few New Englanders marked Valentine’s Day before its rise in the increasingly sentimental and economically prosperous 1840s.
  • As with other holidays, those who made money from Valentine’s Day encouraged its observance. In the 1840s when printing technology improved, sending handwritten notes and printed cards became even more popular. Enterprising shopkeepers encouraged the exchange of gloves, books, candy, and other gifts among a growing middle class.
  • Esther Howland, of Worcester, Mass. began designing fancy Valentine cards in 1848, and hired girls to help cut and paste together these small works of art. By 1850 she was advertising her cards in the newspaper, and by 1860 she was selling between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of Valentines annually.

(Source: Old Sturbridge Village)

Christmas by Candlelight: A Celebration of the History on Holiday Traditions

Old Sturbridge Village hosts Christmas by Candlelight
Celebration of favorite holiday traditions, music & food
Nine evening events set for Dec. 7-9; 14-16; 21-23

The legend of Santa has complex origins, blending diverse tales of magical gift givers with Christian beliefs. Dutch settlers in 17th-century New Amsterdam (New York) brought with them the legend of Saint Nicholas (Sinter Klaus), a 4th-century Christian saint from Turkey known for his generosity to children.

Take a break from the overwhelming wave of commercialized holiday “spirit” that the post-Thanksgiving season brings – visit Old Sturbridge Village for Christmas by Candlelight, which offers an incredibly wide variety of family-friendly holiday activities, performances, demonstrations, readings, crafts, and more!  Villagers dressed in period costume will share holiday traditions from early New England – many of which formed the foundation upon which modern day holiday celebrations have been built!  Families can learn about the roots of traditions such as yule logs, roasting chestnuts over a fire, building gingerbread houses, and even having a Christmas tree!

Friday-Sunday evenings from 4-9pm through December 23rd, the village will come alive with performances by Victorian carolers, Celtic music groups, handbell choirs, chorus groups and fife and drum corps.  Visitors can view an exhibit of exquisite handmade gingerbread houses or see a miniature New England village decorated for the holiday, a model train show, or a 100+ piece nativity scene.  There will be hands-on ornament making (using tin, and utilizing basic skills used by early New England metalworkers), as well as other holiday crafts.

A visit to the village can become a new holiday tradition for families, and is also a fantastic way for families to learn about history – hands-on!  Each of the traditions being practiced and/or demonstrated throughout the village is specific to a particular period in American history, and families can work together to place each of their activities into a broader historical context.  Visitors can actually see “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and hear why they were a favored treat in early New England. They can also learn the origins of candy canes, mistletoe, fruitcake and how poinsettias were introduced to this country.

For more information on Christmas by Candlelight, call Old Sturbridge Village at 800-733-1830 or visit  Admission includes a free second visit within a 10-day period and any guests of second-day visitors receive a 25% discount on their admission. You could also inquire with your local library to see if they have a museum pass to OSV to lend.  Monson Free Library,  Westfield Athenaeum Library and Wilbraham Public Library all have passes to lend.  Check with the nearest library near you too.

Did You Know?

The old folk tale of Hansel and Gretel, made famous by the brothers Grimm, inspired many Germans in the early 1800s to create model witches’ houses from hard gingerbread. Building fanciful gingerbread houses at Christmastime spread to America by the late 1800s.

  •  Most early New Englanders did not celebrate Christmas.  They saw Christmas celebrations as dangerous foreign (pagan) perversions of pure Christianity and an excuse for sinful behavior.
  • Yule logs began as a pagan reminder of the light and warmth of the sun on cold mid-winter nights. The word “Yule” is derived from the old Anglo-Saxon word “hweol,” which means “wheel” – a pagan symbol of the sun. The burning of a Yule log originated with the Druids, The modern practice of decorating trees and buildings with flashing electric lights seems to be a logical extension of the lighting of candles and bonfires at Christmas time.
  • Christmas trees were pretty much only a German tradition until the 1840s, when Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, gave her a Christmas tree surrounded by gifts, and the custom began to catch on in the English-speaking world.

 (Source of Facts & Photos: Old Sturbridge Village)

Learn About 1830’s History of Thanksgiving in New England

Thanksgiving 1830s-style at Old Sturbridge Village
Hearth Cooking, Native American Foods, Weddings, Shooting Match, and History!
November 22nd through 25th, 2012

A modern American Thanksgiving features pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce alongside the traditional turkey.  An 1830’s Thanksgiving was, however, a bit different!  Early New Englanders cooked their turkeys in reflector ovens (a new innovation, contributing to even roasting – no basting involved!) and held rifle shooting matches instead of watching football.  Early Thanksgiving meals were even accompanied by wedding cake, as many couples used their post-harvest freedom as a time to get married!  Native Americans, on the other hand, traditionally celebrated numerous Thanksgiving-type occasions throughout the year.

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At Sturbridge Village’s Thanksgiving Days (held November 22nd-25th from 9:30am-4pm), families can learn part of the cultural and historic roots of the holiday we celebrated today.  Costumed historians will demonstrate 19th century cooking techniques over an open hearth, while others share stories, songs, and traditional crafts throughout the village.

Native American historian Marge Bruchac will share information about traditional Algonquin foods and celebrations, too!

The event will provide families with a new way of framing the holiday, and pairs well with beginning studies of early American history and culture.  For more information, call 800-733-1830 or visit

Did you know?

  • In early New England, Thanksgiving was the biggest holiday of the year, far surpassing Christmas, which wasn’t celebrated in the tradition of the Puritans who settled the region.
  • Turkeys in the early 19th century were much smaller than today’s “butterballs,” and turkey wasn’t always on the Thanksgiving menu, because they were a lot of work to prepare for not much meat.
  • In the early 1800s, turkey “drovers” herded and marched turkeys on foot from central and western Massachusetts to the huge Brighton market just outside of Boston, MA to sell the birds to wealthy city dwellers.
  • Many vegetables weren’t peeled for everyday cooking, but they were for holidays like Thanksgiving to show the elevated status of the day.
  • Pies were baked weeks ahead of time and stored in unheated attics and bedrooms where they would freeze and keep for months. Pies not consumed at Thanksgiving would sometimes last until April.
  • The cranberry is one of three fruits native to North America, and was used by Native Americans to make pemmican – a survival food made of mashed cranberries mixed with deer meat. They also used cranberries in poultices to draw poison from wounds.

(Source: Old Sturbridge Village)

Q&A: Horse-Drawn Sleigh & Hayrides in Western MA


One of our readers is looking for places to take kids on horse-drawn sleigh or hayrides in Western MA for their child’s winter birthday party. Any recommendations?

  • Lauren Koblara Kostantin writes, “Blue Star Equiculture! It’s in Palmer, MA on a beautiful farm.”
  • Tara Brock Winters writes, “Kip Porter on Kinnebrook Rd in Worthington (O’Shea & Porter Draft Horses) has draft horses & does horse drawn rides; they are beautiful!”
  • Christy Bielunis writes, “Call Al at Tetrault’s Horse Farm.  He will come to you if you have the space, or you can go to his farm in Hatfield. 413-247-5983.”
  • Robert P. Ross writes, “Florence Village Luminary (Dec. 22, 2012) offers free hay rides in downtown Florence, MA.”
  • Melissa Moody Belmonte writes, “Wendell State Forest has a little skating rink, awesome sledding, and a little shed for making hot chocolate. I had so much fun at a birthday party when we went to there!”
  • Hilda Bailey recommends, Historic Deerfield in Deerfield, MA. Weekends from Dec 1-18, 2012.
  • Sienna Wildfield writes, “Draft Works in Chesterfield offers private horse drawn hayrides at Look Park in Florence during the holidays, Sweet Brook Farm in Williamstown offers both horse drawn hayrides & sleigh rides (when there’s snow), and Old Sturbridge Village hosts horse-drawn sleigh or wagon rides on weekends and during school vacation weeks in December and February.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) Jim Sorbie]

18 Community Highlights: Robert Frost to Monarch Butterflies. Guided Tours to Open Houses.

Monarch butterflies take on an epic annual migration – from the northern United States, all the way to Mexico! Learn about the life cycle and migratory flights of this beautiful butterfly this weekend in Franklin County at the Bernardston Unitarian Church.

Robert Frost to Monarch Butterflies. War of 1812 to Urban Townhouses. Guided Tours to Open Houses. These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week!  Get out into your community and learn while you play!  And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week.  Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!


Take a special back-to-school themed tour of the Stockbridge Cemetery on Saturday, Sept. 8th, now the final resting place of numerous former town residents of special interest. This late afternoon tour will feature visits from ghosts of former schoolteachers and town residents who want to share their stories of learning in Stockbridge. Same evening in the Pioneer Valley, learn about the Grand Trunk Hotel, once an important part of Turners Falls’ life and culture! Join the Great Falls Discovery Center to visit the hotel’s former site, and use your imagination (along with artifacts, photos, and recorded testimony) to piece together an idea of what a stay at the hotel may have been like. – Both tours are free.

Old Sturbridge Village hosts Drummer’s Call on Saturday, Sept. 8th, a celebration of 19th century military music. There will be a parade featuring numerous groups in costume, uniform “fashion shows,” and more. Along with the learning opportunities available during a visit to the village, the event offers families a chance to learn about music history, and the role that music played in the military (especially during the Civil War). Then on Wednesday, Sept 12th, OSV is hosting a special homeschool day, featuring events and activities centered around the War of 1812. The War of 1812 is perhaps one of the most misunderstood conflicts in American history – immerse yourself in 1830’s life to learn about this war in American history.

The Rowe Historical Society presents Robert Frost– for kids on Sunday afternoon, Sept 9th! The event will include a reading of some of Frost’s most kid-friendly work, as well as a talk on his life and poetry. John Dennis Anderson will dress as Frost, and questions will be answered first as Frost may have, then from a historian’s perspective. Prepare for the presentation by reading some of Frost’s poetry at home! Then in the evening of Monday, Sept 10th, the Pelham Historical Society will include a special presentation on the area’s rich agricultural history. Authors Ruth Owen Jones and Sheila Rainford will share slides and material from their book Harvesting History, which covers over 300 years of local agrarian history. The event is great for older students interested in agriculture and/or the development of their community, and can help to supplement studies of American history and culture. – Both events are free.


There are two guided afternoon tours happening on Saturday, Sept 8th. In Berkshire Cty., take a guided tour of the grounds at Field Farm in Williamstown, a Trustees of Reservations site that is home to two stunning modernist homes, nestled amongst over 300 acres of beautiful Berkshire scenery. Families can learn about the history and design principles behind the homes, and explore the paths and foothills of the property.  And in Hampden Cty., learn about Springfield’s unique historic district at Mattoon Street with the Springfield Preservation Trust Home Tour! The area is home to one of Western Massachusetts’ only distinctly urban rows of conjoined brick townhouses, and tours are being offered of these historic homes! Visitors will learn about the history of the area and its significance within the development of the community, as well as interesting facts about the homes’ unique architecture and why the design is specific to urban environments.


The Zoo in Forest Park in Springfield is home not only to exotic creatures, but to animals native to New England as well! Visit the zoo on Saturday, Sept 8th for Backyard Friends, a program on animals you’ll find locally and how to help them survive and thrive.  Then on Sunday, Sept 9th, it’s Grandparents Day at the Zoo in Forest Park! Grandparents get a free train ride with a child ticket. – Another zoo adventure awaits at the Southwick Zoo on Sunday, Sept 9th where they will be celebrating Massachusetts Day! Present a state residency card (driver’s license, passport, etc.) to receive buy-one-get-one admission.

Monarch butterflies take on an epic annual migration – from the northern United States, all the way to Mexico! Learn about the life cycle and migratory flights of this beautiful butterfly on Sunday morning, Sept. 9th. There will be hands-on science activities at the Bernardston Unitarian Church, and maybe even a chance to see some live butterflies up close! Over in Amherst in the afternoon on Sunday, participate as citizen scientists helping the staff at the Hitchcock Center tag Monarch butterflies. Then on Monday morning, Sept 10th the canal in Turners Falls is drained once a year to allow for maintenance to the power station and the canal’s walls. Northfield Mountain is offering a unique opportunity to explore the canal bed while it’s dry! Participants, clad in boots and bearing buckets of all sorts, will be able to see species not normally found due to their aquatic habitats (including dragonfly nymphs, lamprey eels, and more). Kids can learn to identify new species! All collected critters will be released afterwards. – Both events are free.


Celebrate Springfield’s history and culture at the annual Mattoon Street Arts Festival on Saturday, Sept 8th in Springfield! This year marks the 40th year of the festival, making it the longest running arts festival in the valley. There will be local food, artisan vendors, art showcases, and tours of the many historic homes and gardens surrounding the historic Quadrangle neighborhood. The event also features a special children’s carnival.

On Sunday afternoon, Sept 9th, the Museum School at the Springfield Museums’ D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts is offering an open house, featuring demonstrations of many of the different skills that students can learn, a chance to meet faculty, and, of course, ample opportunity to learn about the school’s programs for children and parents.

Arts Night Out in Northampton on Friday night, Sept 14th, features the annual Chalk Art Festival.  Community members can view the finished pieces (created in public spaces all across town by artists with varied styles and specialties) while visiting the many other galleries, restaurants, and businesses hosting art shows. Artists will be drawing from 8am-4pm, and families can explore Northampton to view the creation process before seeing the finished product! A free event.


There are a couple of music school open houses happening this weekend.  In Berkshire Cty., the Berkshire Music School in Pittsfield hosts a morning pen house for prospective students and parents on Saturday, Sept 8th. There will be an instrument petting zoo and opportunity to check out youth music classes. And in Hampshire Cty. on Sunday afternoon, Sept 9th,  families are invited to visit the Northampton Community Music Center to learn about the many different programs offered to the community (and to learners of all ages!). Families can take a demo class, visit an instrument petting zoo, explore the center, and get information about fall programs, classes, performances, and more. – Visiting these open house sis a great first step for families interested in bringing music education into their family, or for kids with a keen interest in learning to read music, sing, or play an instrument.

Bucket ListFind out about these events and over 100 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events.  And don’t forget about our Bucket List of 60 recommendations of things to do and places to see in Western MA in the summer by Hilltown Families readers (and add you’re own recommendation too!)


[Photo credit: (ccl) Sandy Richard]

14 Community Highlights: Corn Mazes to County Fairs. 19th Century Games to Gallery Tours.

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar

This is a great time of the year to go on a bug hunt with your kids. Search for these Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars in the leaf folds of sassafras, or the emerald green, gold studded chrysalis of the Monarch butterfly on the stems and leaves of milkweed. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Corn Mazes to County Fairs.  Beavers to Estuaries.  19th Century Games to Gallery Tours. These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week!  Get out into your community and learn while you play!  And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week.  Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!


For Labor Day weekend families can get a strong dose or two of local agriculture. The 145th annual Blandford Fair takes place Friday-Monday, Aug 31-Sept 3, as does the 195th edition of the Three County Fair in Northampton. Visit to learn about animals, local agriculture, local history, and local culture – and see magic shows, live music, and more! And all weekend long families can get lost in a corn maze at Warner Farm  in Sunderland. Mike’s Corn Maze offers a fun and challenging outdoor adventure (of the best kind!) for families of all ages.


Saturday, Sept 1st through Monday, Sept 3rd, families can visit Old Sturbridge Village for Family Fun Days!  This special long weekend program offers families a chance to play numerous games – as they were played in the 19th century!  Families can try a game of French and English, play baseball, watch a fire balloon fight, and do 1800’s crafts.  There will also be chances to see craftsmen at work on various projects, tour the village, and learn about 19th century life.

On Friday evening, Sept 7th, older students interested in local history can participate in a program at the Great Falls Discovery Center to learn about the settling of Turners Falls, the development of industry, and cultural changes within the community.  This talk will focus on the immigration of a specific group, and the changes that occurred during the time when that group came to the area. It’s a free talk and best for teens and older.


Arunah Hill Days take place this weekend in Cummington, bringing with them a host of astronomy activities and outdoor adventures for families!  On Saturday afternoon, Sept 1st, families can visit the nature center for a GPS treasure hunt, nature walks of the grounds, and rocket building and launching!  Evening will bring telescopes, and stargazing!  Master gazers will help families with telescope use and will teach visitors to find and identify stars, constellations, and more.  Activities take place throughout the day.

Then Friday evening, Sept 7th, the Springfield Museums host Stars Over Springfield.  Visit the museum to take a peek at the stars through a rooftop telescope!  In case of clouds or rain, a planetarium show will be presented instead.


Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls will be exploring habitats of the Connecticut River watershed using their investigation stations over the next few weeks, starting with estuaries on Sunday afternoon, Sept 2nd.  Park interpreters will be on hand to help families with children of all ages understand exhibits and will focus shared information on a particular habitat found in the watershed.  Then on Tuesdays mornings the center hosts an environment-themed program for kids ages 3-6yo called Kidleidescope, and interactive learning opportunity with crafts. All programs are free.

On Wednesday morning, Sept 5th, families with preK kids can take a hike at Mt. Greylock in Lanesborough!  Their “Nice and Easy” family-friendly hike is about two hours long and will cover 1-2 miles of trail. Then in the evening in Lenox, families with slightly older kids can visit Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary’s beaver ponds to learn about beaver habits and local habitats.  The program will also teach visitors information on animals that are attracted to beaver-created ponds, and the changes that beavers have caused to landscapes since their reintroduction to the area over 80 years ago.


On Wednesday morning, Sept 5th, the Norman Rockwell Museum hosts, “Creating Together: A Parent-Child Experience,” an art workshop featuring a gallery tour and hands-on art making in Stockbridge, and in the afternoon, the Art Garden in Shelburne Falls hosts open studio hours where families can visit to experiment with art materials and try out new forms of expression – or just to work on perfecting skills.

On Friday evening, Sept 7th, Pittsfield host First Friday art walk, which means families will have a chance to explore galleries, shops, and restaurants, all featuring beautiful artwork by a variety of artists, mediums and styles.

Bucket ListFind out about these events and over 100 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events.  And don’t forget about our Bucket List of 60 recommendations of things to do and places to see in Western MA in the summer by Hilltown Families readers (and add you’re own recommendation too!)


Non-Commercial Way to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Be Mine: Chocolate & Valentines
Non-Commercial Way to Celebrate Valentine’s Day
February 11th & 12th at Old Sturbridge Village

Discover the history of chocolate and Valentine cards at OSV this weekend. A visit to the village during the special Valentine weekend is a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day non-commercially, and is also a great way to teach kids about life in early America!

Even when you’re immersed in the 19th century at Old Sturbridge Village, Valentine’s Day is still about sharing cards and eating chocolate.  OSV’s “Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines” takes place from 9:30am to 4pm this coming weekend, February 11th and 12th.  Visitors to the village will learn about the history of chocolate in the United States, as well as how Valentine cards became an important part of celebrating Valentine’s Day.  Historians at the village will show visitors the process of grinding roasted cacao beans to use in making chocolate cake and a spicy hot chocolate drink (not like the hot chocolate we have today!).  Kids can create their own Valentines, an activity that they may be eager to take part in after learning where the tradition comes from (Hint: it involves a stationery maker, his young daughter, and an English tradition!)!  A visit to the village during the special Valentine weekend is a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day non-commercially, and is also a great way to teach kids about life in early America!  Learning about early customs and traditions can spark a discussion on the evolution of culture, and can supplement learning about customs and traditions for many different holidays in a variety of cultures.  For more information, visit or call OSV at 800-733-1830.

Fire & Ice: Early New England Culture, Industry and Ice at OSV

Fire and Ice Days at Old Sturbridge Village
January 28th & 29th, 2012

Ice harvesting on the OSV Mill Pond (Courtesy Photo)

If your family was without power during the Halloween blizzard, what did you do to keep your refrigerated goods cold?  It’s likely that you, like many families, buried them in the snow.  Before we had electric refrigeration, that used to be the only way to keep foods cold!  Ice was once an important “cash crop” in New England, and you can learn about the history and science behind ice harvesting at Old Sturbridge Village this weekend!

On January 28th and 29th, OSV hosts Fire and Ice Days, an event that includes ice harvesting, ice skating, sledding (on vintage 1830’s sleds!), and horse-drawn sleigh rides.  Visitors can join historians from OSV, as well as Storrowton Village’s own ice harvesting expert Dennis Picard, for demonstrations of ice harvesting at the village’s Mill Pond.  Visitors can even try out the saws and augers used by ice harvesters during the 1830’s.  Later in the day, there will be a bonfire where visitors can warm up and enjoy cider, songs, and stories!

Fire and Ice Days are both fun and educational- there are many hands-on activities for families to enjoy for a seasonal learning experience.  Learning about the importance of ice harvesting is a great way to supplement kids’ studies of early New England industries and culture, or maybe even food history!  

Old Sturbridge Village is open from 9:30-4pm each day with free entrance for kids during the month of January.  Ice harvesting, as well as other snow and ice related activities, is dependent on weather and proper conditions.  If conditions do not allow a harvest, the event will still take place but ice won’t be harvested.  For more information, call 800-733-1830 or visit

Did you know?

  • If insulated, ice could survive the 16,000-mile, 130-day trip from Boston to Bombay.
  • Chicagoans saw their first lobster in 1842, shipped from the East Coast.
  • The first shipment of ice to England melted because customs officials couldn’t decide how to classify the 300-ton cargo of ice.
  • Ship owners were at first reluctant to carry ice for fear it would melt in the holds of the ships and endanger them.
  • Sawdust, previously a worthless byproduct of sawmills, proved to be an excellent insulator for ice, and provided extra income for lumber mills.
  • Before ice:
    • In the heat of summer, milk would keep for only an hour or two before it began to spoil, and fresh meat wouldn’t keep much longer than a day
    • A chicken had to be cooked the day it was plucked
  • The story of Frederic Tudor, Boston’s “Ice King” who created the ice industry, was presented at the Harvard Business School in the 1930s as a model of the classic entrepreneur; someone who is determined, takes risk, fails, tries again and succeeds.

Excerpted from At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at Old Sturbridge Village

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebrated
at Old Sturbridge Village

Historian and storyteller Tammy Denease portrays Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, telling her story for her fight for freedom at the Old Sturdbridge Village on MLK Jr. Day, Jan 16th, 2012.

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, Old Sturbridge Village is offering a program on Monday, Jan 16th for families that highlights the story of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, a former slave (from Sheffield, MA) who successfully gained her freedom in court- a case that eventually lead to the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts.  Freeman is played by historian and storyteller Tammy Denease, who will tell the story of Freeman’s fight for freedom as well as explain her role in the fight to abolish slavery for good.  Freeman’s story is important not only because it is unique (most slaves couldn’t even try to fight for freedom, let alone succeed at doing so), but because she was a woman and women’s rights were practically unheard of during the 1700’s.

Children can learn a lot from the presentation- it fits into studies of civil and human rights, culture, and American history, and hearing Freeman’s story within a re-creation of its historical context can help kids to contextualize the story.

Other activities taking place throughout the day include ice skating (BYO skates), hands-on art activities, and history-based free play at the village’s KidStory area.  For more information, call the museum at 800-733-1830 or visit

Christmas by Candlelight: Non-Commercial Way to Celebrate and Discover the Holidays

History and the Holidays Come Alive at Old Sturbridge Village

Father Christmas at OSV. (Courtesy photo)

Is your family craving a simultaneously delightful and non-commercial holiday adventure? Old Sturbridge Village has just the thing- Christmas by Candlelight! The event will take place during three weekends in December (Fri-Sun from 4-9pm), and the activities and learning opportunities featured emphasize history, tradition, and the spirit of the holidays.

Activities include horse-drawn sleigh rides, listening to Victorian carolers, hands-on art activities (Christmas ornaments and other keepsakes), visits from Father Christmas and Santa, and live music, puppet shows, readings, and more!

OSV also hosts a yearly gingerbread house contest, and visitors can view the entries and vote for their favorite entry. Christmas by Candlelight is a fantastic way for families to learn and celebrate together- start a new holiday tradition!

For more information visit To find out which local library has free OSV museum passes for borrowing, check our Educational Support & Local Resources page.

OSV Programs for Homeschoolers

Fall 2010 Programs for Home School Families at Old Sturbridge Village

At OSV, children can learn about the transportation revolution in the 19th century. (Photo credit: OSV)

  • “Hop into History” overnight program August 14th
  • Home School Days September 14th and November 10th

Living history museum Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) will offer programs just for home school families, beginning with a Hop into History Overnight sleepover on Sat., August 14th, and continuing with a special September 14th Home School Day on Travel: People and Goods in Motion, and a November 10th Home School Day on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Newly introduced by OSV, Hop into History Overnight are designed for groups of young people ages 6-12, giving them an exciting “night at the museum.” The August 14th overnight program for home school families includes an evening tour of the Village, 45-minute hands-on activities, storytelling, 1830s games, two-day admission to the museum, and a Continental breakfast. Learn more.

Theme for the September 14th Home School Day at Old Sturbridge Village is Travel: People and Goods in Motion, giving children the opportunity to learn about the transportation revolution in the 19th century: new roads, canals, stagecoach routes and railways, which allowed for easier transport of people and goods all over New England and beyond. Registration for this Home School Day opens August 16th.

At the November 10th OSV Home School Day, children can learn more about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving’s famous tale of a headless Hessian soldier returning to haunt a rural community. Storytelling, demonstrations, and hands-on activities will be offered, along with shadow puppet performances and workshops by visiting artist, Andrea Caspari. Online registration will be available one month in advance.

Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is open year-round. Hours vary seasonally. Parking is free and visitors get a free second-day return visit within 10 days. For information: or call 1-800-733-1830. A calendar of additional days when home school families can receive discounted admission will be announced in September. For details call 508-347-0285; For a summary of OSV offerings for home school groups: learn more.

Wool Days at Old Sturbridge Village During Memorial Day Weekend

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Memorial Day Weekend at Old Sturbridge Village

May 29th-31st, 2010

During Wool Days Celebration at Old Sturbridge Village this weekend, families can meet the new baby animals, watch historical demos, be hands-on, take a boat ride, get crafty and much more.

The sheep at Old Sturbridge Village will get their annual “haircuts” during Memorial Day Weekend May 29th-31st, 2010 as the Village celebrates “Wool Days.” Farmers will shear the sheep, and OSV historians in costume will demonstrate the entire wool textile process, from scouring and carding the wool to spinning, knitting and weaving the handspun wool yarn. Visitors can try hand carding (brushing and de-tangling) the wool, and then learn how the Village’s historic water-powered carding mill does the same job much faster.

When sheared, the OSV sheep each produce about five pounds of wool. They are a heritage breed descended from sheep brought by Spaniards to the U.S. Gulf coast in the 1500s and closely resemble the 19th century sheep breed commonly found on New England farms in the 1830s. Their fleece is soft, and the lanolin in the wool is great for the hands. In fact, shearing is one of the few tasks in the farmer’s year which will actually improve the condition of his hands.

Sometimes sheep farmers in the early 1800s had to deal with the care of lambs rejected by their mothers. The alternative was to feed milk to the lamb by hand unless a foster mother could be found. A lamb raised by hand is called a “cosset lamb,” and probably Mary’s little lamb from the famous poem “whose fleece was white a snow…” was tame because it was being raised by hand.

In keeping with the Wool Days theme, visitors can make a “Wooly Sheep” ornament using wool from the OSV sheep. Also highlighting the weekend is the return of the Old Sturbridge Village stagecoach and boat ride on the Quinebaug River, and old-fashioned Base-Ball games.

Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is one of the largest living history museums in the country. The museum is open daily 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. seven days a week. OSV offers free parking and a free return visit within 10 days. For for information call 1-800-SEE-1830 or visit online at

Suggested Events 05/08/10-05/14/10

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Discover fun and educational events happening this weekend in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.


Celebrating May in the Hilltowns. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Suggest an EventIf you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.


Friday, May 7th at Elmer’s Store in Ashfield: Cowboy Steak (bone-in ribeye) with roasted garlic mushrooms, chipotle and goat cheese mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus – or – Mediterranean couscous-stuffed eggplant with yogurt mint sauce and asparagus. BYOB 628-4003

Saturday, May 8th at Bread Euphoria in Haydenville: Sandwiches, salads, soups and pizza (including Gluten-Free pizza!).  Open mic! Beer & wine available. 268-7757

Saturday, May 8th at Blue House Cafe in Haydenville: Homemade vegetarian fare with local and organic ingredients. Open Mic with Steve Koziol! BYOB 268-7441

Sunday Brunch, May 9th at Remington Lodge in Cummington: Fresh fruit plate, Freshly baked muffins and breads, Eggs Florentine with home fries, Chocolate-dipped strawberries, Juice, coffee, and tea and . . . spring posies for all the mothers!. BYOB RSVP 634-5493


HILLTOWN SPRING FESTIVAL: The Hilltown Spring Festival, a daylong family-friendly celebration of Hilltown music, arts, culture and community, will take place Saturday, May 15th, 2010 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Cummington Fairgrounds. Produced by the Hilltown CDC, the fourth annual Festival will feature 15 musical acts on two performance stages, including headliners Charles Neville, The Primate Fiasco and Swing Caravan, all-day children’s activities, maypole, local food and local brews, arts and crafts and a sustainable living expo. – (LISTEN TO PSA)

FAMILY CONCERT: Brady Rymer will be performing a Sunday matinee concert for families at the Iron Horse on Sunday, May 16th, 2010 at 2pm in Northampton, as part of the No Nap Happy Hour Series.  More info here.


SPONSORSHIP, ADVERTISING & ANNOUNCEMENTS: Deliver your message to a large local family based audience while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Advertise your event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement here in the Bulletin Board section of our List of Weekly Suggested Events. – SPONSORSHIP: Interested in supporting the work of Hilltown Families?  Find out how to be a sponsor! Inquiries can email for details

Debra J’Anthony, Executive Director of the Academy of Music Theater in Northampton, MA writes: We continue to accept registration forms for our Summer Musical Theater Workshops for ages 7-14. Our first session, Encore, Glee Club, begins July 5th and is offered for children ages 11-14. The second session, First Act!, begins July 19th, running for two weeks for children ages 7-11. Call 584-9032 for more info.

MUSIC GIVEAWAY: Uncle Rock has released a new family CD, The Big Picture, and we have a copy to giveaway to one luck family!  Click here to find out how you can win a copy of his newest release!

RECYCLING BENEFIT: There will be an Electronic Recycling Collection May 15th, 2010 from 9-12 at Smith Vocational High School. The location is 80, Locust Street, Northampton, MA. The collection is open to the public- you do not need to be a Northampton resident. Recycling fees run between $2-$10 and benefit Northampton Public Schools. There is no charge to recycle printer cartridges or cell phones. Unable to accept refrigerators, freezers, dehumidifiers, or any appliances containing freon at this collection. Co-sponsored by the Northampton DPW, the Northampton Chamber of Commerce, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, and WRSI. Special thanks to Duseau Trucking.

FISHWAY: Each spring when the shadbush blooms, New Englanders have the opportunity to view an incredible natural phenomenon – the return of the American shad. The fishways on the Connecticut River help migrating fish over the dams and provide an opportunity to view these fish at underwater viewing windows. FirstLight Power Resources’ Turners Falls facility will open Saturday, May 15 and close Sunday, June 20. The migration season happens quickly, so plan your trip soon! For directions, hours of operations or to schedule a school program, please call (800) 859-2960 or Click here to download a fishway brochure which also contains information about Holyoke Gas and Electric’s Barrett Fishway.

Hilltown Spring FestivalCALL FOR KID CRAFTERS: Crafty kids up to 13yo are invited to participate in the Kids-Made Craft Bazaar from 1:30-3:30pm at the Hilltown Spring Festival on Saturday, May 15th.  The Hilltown CDC’s goals are to allow children to participate directly in the Festival, to reward them for their creativity, and to give them some real-world experience showing and selling their work. The Kids-Made Crafts area will be highlighted in a central covered area on the fairground, and all crafts and art must be hand-made predominantly by children and is only $5 per table.  For more information and registration, click here.

RECALL: Working in consultation with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), McNeil Consumer Healthcare is implementing a voluntary recall of infant and children’s liquid products due to manufacturing deficiencies which may affect quality, purity or potency. Following McNeil’s recall announcement on Friday evening, the FDA is providing additional advice to consumers.  More info here.

TICKET GIVEAWAY: Congratulations to Jennifer Page of Amherst, MA and Elizabeth Brooke-Willbanks of Easthampton, MA. Both families have won a pair of free tickets to see Dan Zanes performing with the Whole Children Community Chorus and special guest, local musician Mister G at First Churches in Northampton on Mother’s Day (May 9th).

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY: Amherst Survival Center. Volunteers are needed to prepare, serve and clean up after meals; to help sort donations and drivers to pick up produce and baked goods for daily distribution. Call 549-3968, ext. 202 or email

SUBMIT A VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY: Looking for volunteers for your non-profit, service organization or not-for-profit event? Post your “call for volunteers” on our Community Bulletin Board for profile consideration.



Hilltown Family Variety ShowHFVS airs every Saturday from 9-10am, and encores air on Sundays from 7-8am, on 103.3FM WXOJ Northampton, MA

Tune in on Saturdays from 9-10am, or listen to our podcasts HERE. Encore episodes are aired every Sunday from 7-8am. Families have several ways to tune in to the Hilltown Family Variety Show:

  • Streaming Audio: Surf on over to on Saturday & Sunday mornings and listen to us live via streaming audio.
  • On Your FM Dial: Tune in to WXOJ 103.3FM if you live near Northampton, MA.
  • HFVS Podcast

    PODCAST: Listen to the most recent episodes of the Hilltown Family Variety Show anytime you wish! Click here to see our current select of episodes, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast too!


    Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Free Museum Passes | Family Centers (Ages 0-4) | Movies in the Valley | Movies in the Berkshires | Farmer’s Market | PSA

    Events Happening in the Hilltowns
    SATURDAY – 5/8

    Hilltown Family Variety Show6-10am – FAMILY RADIO: Mother’s Day Episode! Valley Free Radio (WXOJ-LP 103.3FM Northampton, MA) offers 4-hours of commercial-free family programing every Saturday, including the Hilltown Family Variety Show and Spare the Rock. Tune in on your FM dial, or listen live via streaming audio at

    9am-12Noon –FAMILY WALK/RUN: Berkshire Trail Elementary “Spirit of Learning” 5K Run & Walk. Cummington, MA (FUNDRAISER)

    9:30am-12Noon – NATURE STUDIES: Grab the family and come dig up and learn now to eat Garlic Mustard: Learn how to properly identify, pull and dispose of garlic mustard plants. As an alternative and fun means of disposal, edible wild plant expert Blanche Derby will lead a demonstration and tasting of some easy recipes for garlic mustard that will take place afterwards on the beautiful grounds of the Bryant Homestead. 268-8219 Cummington, MA (FREE)

    10-11am – NATURE STUDIES: Fascinating Frogs: Exploring Life Cycles with Rachel Roberts at Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center. A program about life cycles. Variety of hands-on science and art activities connected to life cycles with a focus on frogs, including a story time about the life of tree frogs and time to look at books about other frogs and life cycles. This class will reinforce participants’ understanding of animal behavior and the cycles of nature around us all year long. Ages 4 and older. 800-859-2960 Northfield, MA (FREE)

    10-11:30am – NATURE STUDIES: Falconry Up Close at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. Chris Davis, Master Falconer, provides the opportunity to observe up close the handling and free-flying of a trained hawk. Experience the ancient art of falconry while learning about the life history of raptors, their role in the environment, and the efforts underway to ensure their survival and conservation. Appropriate for ages 8 and up accompanied by an adult. Space is limited. Pre-registration is required; please call 256-6006 Amherst, MA ($)

    10am-12Noon – CRAFTS: Mother’s Day Floral Arrangement at the Whately Library. Drop in for an all ages craft project. Adults and children are welcome to make a spring wreath or arrangement for Mother’s Day. Fiona will guide you and all materials will be provided. Feel free to bring additional flowers, ribbons, or containers you would like to use. Funding for this program has been provided from the Friends of the Library. Whatley, MA (FREE)

    10am-1pm – OUTDOOR ADVENTURES: The Art of Shelter with Earthwork Programs. Learn the skills to make your own shelter in the wilderness, using all natural materials. 522-0338 Northampton, MA ($$)

    10am-2:30pm – OUTDOOR ADVENTURES: Youth Fishing Derby. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Office (300 Westgate Center Drive) will hold a Free Youth Fishing Derby for children14yo and under. Participants will fish in a stocked pond. Other activities include face painting, arts and crafts, and casting demonstrations. Prizes will be awarded in three age categories. Refreshments on sale by local Boy and Girl Scout Troops. Hadley, MA (FREE)

    10am-11pm – COMMUNITY FAIR: On the Town Common in Amherst, sponsored by the Rotary Club.  Rides for kids, games, rock climbing wall, food and more.  Amherst, MA (FREE)

    10:30am-12Noon – ARCHITECTURAL STUDIES: Students and adults can discover local architectural styles with local historian and retired city planner Robert McCarroll who will lead a walking tour to see Springfield’s Art Deco-style buildings. The tour will begin at the Springfield Museums. Art Deco was a modernistic, streamlined, sleekly decorative style that was popular between the two world wars. McCarroll will discuss the Art Deco features of several Springfield buildings, including the state office building on Dwight Street, the Community Music School building on State Street, and the art and science museums at the Quadrangle. For additional information, call the Armoury-Quadrangle Civic Association at 413-747-1830 or email Springfield, MA (>$)

    10:30am-12Noon – CRAFTS: Painting with Wool Worksop: An Introduction to Felt Making. A 2-hour workshop at the Wistariahurst Museum with Sue McFarland. Learn techniques along with the history of felt making. Students 12yo & older. RSVP 322-5660 Holyoke, MA ($)

    11am – PUPPET SHOW: Watershed Waltz, a puppet performance for kids 5-12yo at North Hall. Music, storytelling and shadow puppetry. Explore the dynamics of a healthy watershed with an 11-year-old boy as he teaches his mother about the watershed. 667-5543 Huntington, MA (KIDS FREE, Adults donation)

    11am – MEMORY WALK: Empty Arms Mothers Day Walk at Look Park. This walk is a fundraiser, but also stands as an opportunity for the community to come together to honor all mothers on Mother’s Day Weekend. Donations are optional but your presence is worth so much to the families involved. 529-1610 Florence, MA (Fundraiser)

    11am-1:30pm – COOKING: Mother’s Day Lunch, a hands-on For kids (8-12yo) at Different Drummer’s Kitchen Co. Cooking School. Here is every mom’s dream: drop off your kids for a wonderful cooking class with talented cooking teacher Barbara Morse. Then go shopping, get a manicure, do whatever you fancy. When you return an hour and a half later, you will be treated to a delicious meal prepared by the young chefs. What better gift for Mother’s Day! 800-375-2665 Northampton, MA ($$)

    11am-12Noon – NATURE STUDIES: Stories from Nature’s Garden at the Lee Library (100 Main Street). Join The Trustees of Reservations horticulturalist Anne Gannon for a free program of indoor stories and activities sharing the wonders of nature in all seasons. 243-0385 Lee, MA (FREE)

    11:30am-1:30pm – NATURE STUDIES: Eyes On Owls: Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day. Join naturalist Marcia Wilson and photographer Mark Wilson in sharing their passion for owls! They will be holding two live owl presentations at the International Migratory Bird Day celebration at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region Office (300 Westgate Center Drive). The building is located south of the intersection of Route 9 and Route 116 North. Hadley, MA

    1-2:30pm – NATURE STUDIES: Stream Explorers, a workshop for kids 10yo+. Discover the magic of streams! Wear waterproof footwear, bring bag lunch. Desserts provided. Parents may wait indoors at North Hall. Space is limited. Registration is required: 667-5543 Huntington, MA (FREE)

    1-3pm – HENNA PARTY: At the Meekins Library, Sangita Desigawill henna your hands with a beautiful flower design.  Call to sign up, 268-7472. Williamsburg, MA

    1pm & 3pm – THEATER: Berkshire Theater Festival Presents Hansel & Gretel in the auditorium at the Eric Carle Museum. 658-1126 Amherst, MA ($)

    1-3pm – GAMES: Drop-in Chess at the Forbes Library Mezzanine. Casual meets every Saturday the library is open. All competition levels are welcome. Drop in for part or all of the session. Bring your own set if you have one or use one of the library’s. Northampton, MA (FREE)

    1-3pm – NATURE STUDIES: Broad Brook Coalition presents a mid-spring nature hike with botanist, Connie Parks at Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area. Discover ephemeral spring wildflowers and signs of plants to come. Sturdy footwear. Meet at the North Farms Road entrance. Florence, MA (FREE)

    2pm-8pm – CULTURAL EVENT: Batepapo Festa, a Brazilian celebration, at North Star. Capoeira workshops, Brazillian BBQ, games, music and more. 386-8316 Hadley, MA (Fundraiser)

    5-8pm – ART WALK: Art Walk Easthampton is held the “Second Saturday” of the month. Locations across the city showcase visual, music and performance art in an energetic sampling of local, regional and national talent. All events are free. Parking is free. Art Walk Easthampton is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Easthampton Cultural Council and the support of Mantis Graphics which makes our large, yellow banners. Easthampton, MA (FREE)

    7:30pm – CONCERT: Mother’s Day Benefit Concert to benefit the Prison Birth Project. A multigenerational feast of song at Edwards Church. 584-3843 Northampton, MA (FUNDRAISER, Under 6yo Free)

    8-9pm – NATURE STUDIES: Nocturnal Pond explorations at Red Gate Farm. Tromp down to the farm pond and experience the evening come alive! Learn more about tadpoles, peepers and other springtime pond activity as children get firsthand experience with evening pond life and creatures of the wetlands. All ages welcome. Please call the Farm Office to register. 625-9503 Buckland, MA (>$)

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    Motherhood in the 1800’s at OSV

    Historical Look at Motherhood at Old Sturbridge Village on Mother’s Day

    With so much cooking done at hearthside, fire was the number one danger for children in early New England households. No doubt one of the earliest words children learned was ‘Hot!’

    Moms get free admission to Old Sturbridge Village on Mother’s Day, Sunday May 9th, and family events are planned throughout the weekend. Children can meet the baby animals on the farm, and enjoy indoor crafts, including making block printed note cards for a Mother’s Day gift. Moms can gain insights on childbirth, raising children and running a frugal household from OSV costumed historians portraying Midwife Lucy Tucker and 19th century author Lydia Maria Child, who wrote The Mother’s Book. OSV horticulturists will present “The Family Nurse’s Tour of the Herb Garden” and a special Mother’s Day Brunch will be served in the Oliver Wight Tavern.

    Although Mother’s Day is a modern invention, OSV historians note that by the 1830s, a “cult of domesticity” began to glorify the home and women’s role in it. Home was viewed as a sanctuary and refuge from the increasingly bustling and depersonalized outside world.

    Despite this trend to glorify home and hearth, “being a mom in the 1830s was a very rigorous job,” notes Deb Friedman, director of public program at Old Sturbridge Village. “Women typically had five or six children and they worked straight through their pregnancies – handling all the endless chores necessary in running a household.

    Unlike today, there were no ready-made strollers, swings, porta-cribs and playpens,” Friedman says. “Moms made do with what they had. For baby walkers, they simply placed ladder-backed chairs flat on the floor so babies could push the chair and toddle behind. Antique chairs were often worn flat on the back from generations of children learning to walk.”

    With so much cooking done at hearthside, fire was the number one danger for children in early New England households. “No doubt one of the earliest words children learned was ‘Hot!’ ” Friedman says.

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    Meet the Newborn Lambs, Celebrate Patriots Day, Discovery Camps and More at OSV

    April School Vacation Week at Old Sturbridge Village

    Four new lambs have already arrived at Old Sturbridge Village, with more expected in the days and weeks to come – good news for children who look forward to meeting the new arrivals during April school vacation week. Visitors can also meet the Village oxen, cows, and chickens, and help the Village farmers with their spring work, from spring planting and plowing to splitting fence rails and sharpening tools.

    To celebrate Patriots Day, April 19th, Old Sturbridge Village offers musket firing demonstrations, and invites young visitors (armed with wooden muskets) to march and drill with the militia. Fifers and drummers will perform the “top 10 military hits,” and historians will demonstrate how militia soldiers had to cast their own musket balls over the fireplace.

    Spring in early New England: the “six weeks of want”

    Visitors to Old Sturbridge Village can tour the farm root cellar and learn why early New Englanders called springtime the “six weeks of want,” which lasted from April to early June.

    “People today think of spring as a time of renewal and abundance, but it was just the opposite in the early 19th century,” notes Deb Friedman, OSV director of public program. “Nothing was up yet in the garden, and they were getting to the ‘bottom of the barrel’ on last year’s supplies of meat and vegetables. To get fresh greens in their diet, they harvested wild pokeweed, dandelions and fiddlehead ferns to eat.”

    On the positive side, springtime in early New England also meant fresh eggs to eat for the first time since fall. “Eggs are definitely a sign of spring. With more daylight and longer days, chickens begin laying eggs again,” Friedman says. “Light affects egg production – that’s why modern poultry farms have lights on all the time.”

    Old Sturbridge Village has a large indoor craft center and more than 40 historic buildings, so the fun happens rain or shine. The Village celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is open from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., seven days a week. OSV visitors get free parking and a free return visit within 10 days. Admission: $20; seniors $18; children 3-17, $7; children under 3, free. For a complete listing of all times, activities and details: 1-800-733-1830;

    Kids Free at Old Sturbridge Village in January

    Kids Free at Old Sturbridge Village in January
    Includes Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and “Fire & Ice” celebrations

    One of the many working kitchen demonstrations at OSV. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Old Sturbridge Village is celebrating the new year with a special thank-you gift for visitors: free admission for children in January (a $7 value per child). From Jan. 1-31, all kids age 17 and under get free admission to the Village when accompanied by an adult (the offer does not apply to educational groups of 10 or more).

    The “Kids Free at OSV” offer applies for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday on January 18th and the museum’s popular Fire & Ice celebration on January 30th, when historians demonstrate vintage ice harvesting. Visitors can try their hands at cutting ice on the Village’s frozen mill pond using old-time ice saws. Other winter activities offered at Old Sturbridge Village include ice skating (bring your own skates), sledding on 1830s-style sleds, and weekend sleigh rides (snow permitting).

    After enjoying the museum’s outdoor winter activities, visitors can warm up indoors by one of the Village’s many cozy fireplaces and take part in hands-on crafts and activities. Children can also spend time “pretending” in OSV’s popular “KidStory” indoor play area.


    Old Sturbridge Village celebrates early New England life from 1790-1840. OSV is open year-round, but hours of operation change seasonally. In winter, the Village is open Wednesday through Sunday 9:30am–4pm, and on all Monday holidays, including Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Presidents’ Day. It is also open daily for School Vacation Week Feb. 13-21.

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