November 2008

In Search of the Authentic New England Christmas

It seems every place has a Christmas tradition, something that enriches the holiday experience for us all. This holiday season, you might want to experience a few of the many and varied New England Christmas traditions.


Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine is lavishly decorated for the holidays by professional designers, decorators and florists. They transform this elegant Italian villa-style home into a Christmas environment that America’s wealthiest citizens would have created in the pre-Civil War era.


More than 90 percent of the original contents of the house survive including important period furniture, elaborate wall paintings, artworks, carpets, gas lighting fixtures, stained glass, porcelain, silver and glassware. The house was built with such modern technologies as central heating, gas lighting, hot and cold running water and a servant’s call system – making it one of the most sophisticated private homes of the period.


Victoria Mansion visitors tour the house at their own pace on self-guided tours using a printed program. Room stewards are available to answer questions. Victoria Mansion is located at 109 Danforth Street in Portland, Maine. The Christmas showing is from November 28 through December 31, Tuesday through Sunday, 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. (closed on Christmas Day). Adult admission is $13.50 and a family admission is $25.

If Victoria Mansion isn’t your cup of eggnog, surely the spectacular Newport Mansions will ignite your Yule log. These amazing homes are decorated in sumptuous style for the holidays and are among the most popular. The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House are beautifully decorated and will be open daily through January 1, 2009. Hours are 10 A.M. until 5 P.M. at The Elms and Marble House; The Breakers opens at 9 A.M. Each of the mansions is adorned for the season with holiday trees, wreaths and flowers with period ornaments providing the finishing touch. You may want to visit Newport's mansions during one of five special Holiday Evenings at The Breakers featuring live holiday music and refreshments. The five "Holiday Evenings" are slated for Saturdays, November 22 and 29, December 6, 13 and 27 from 6 to 8 P.M. each evening. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door for adults and $10 for children ages 6 to 17.

Probably the first clue to the old-fashioned nature of the town of Jackson, New Hampshire is the red covered bridge you have to drive through to get to town. In the White Mountains of the Granite State, you enter a town filled with the Christmas spirit of children and the wonders of Christmases past. In the distance, you hear the shrill whistle of a steam engine as everyone, in unison, cries, “The Polar Express is coming!”


The Lodge at Jackson Village is the focal point of this winter wonderland. You'll see skating ponds, twinkling lights, a Christmas train, and even horse-drawn sleighs. Santa's Village is nearby and sure to lighten your holiday mood.

Remember the wondrous feeling of awakening on a Christmas morning and wanting it to never end? That’s Christmas at the Lodge at Jackson Village. The Lodge has a number of holiday packages to make the season come alive. Call the Lodge at 800-233-5634 for information on special discounts and other packages.


There’s another Christmas tradition to sample in the little town of Barre, Massachusetts, one of the most scenic and quintessentially New England villages. The holiday attraction in Barre is a spectacular display of Christmas lights, decorations and Christmas trees on the Barre common. The Christmas light display on the Barre town common will be illuminated on Saturday, November 25 when Santa Claus is welcomed to town with a Santa Parade. The parade finishes back at the common where Santa will flip the switch and light the displays. This year's Santa Parade will have a “Snowman” theme. For directions and information on the Barre Santa Parade and Christmas lights, call the Town Hall at 978-355-3050.


Then there is the incomparable Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, Vermont where Christmas is celebrated in the best rural farm town tradition. Expect to see some beautiful holiday decorations throughout. You can join in and make your own Christmas ornament. This is a working dairy farm so be prepared to milk some cows! Billings Farm also offers horse-drawn sleigh rides. The farm is open every weekend in December 10 A.M. - 4 P.M. excluding Christmas Day. Call 802-457-2355 for information.


A year-round resort since 1892 when the Woodstock Inn first opened, the Village of Woodstock, Vermont has thoughtfully preserved its architectural and natural heritage with much of the Village included in a Historic District. We recommend staying at the historic Woodstock Inn & Resort, which, in addition to lodging and dining, operates the Suicide Six Ski Area. Don’t miss the Village-wide Wassail Weekend Christmas Celebration! For information on the Woodstock Inn and special holiday packages, call 800-448-7900.


If you aren’t already full of holiday spirit, we have a movie recommendation for you. Christmas in Connecticut is an oldie (1945), but a goodie that’s certain to fill you with cheer. The publisher of a woman’s magazine (Sidney Greenstreet) crafts a publicity stunt that has the magazine’s housekeeping and cooking expert (Barbara Stanwyck) hosting a lucky reader for Christmas dinner. This classic movie has irresistible charm and may just become part of your Christmas tradition.


Happy Holidays!