Two large draft horses pulled a wagon full of jubilant visitors along the oval dirt path at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. The sun had set and despite the chill in the air I was delighted to see all of the simple lanterns that lined the pathway, each with a single twinkling candle inside. There was something magical about its simplicity. I stood at some of the lanterns, listening to the sound of the old wagon as it meandered along the path, and I felt no desire to do anything other than to stand still and drink in the sights and sounds of a Christmas season from a time that appeared to have stood still for hundreds of years.
I heard the sorrowful bellow of a cow off in the distance followed by the joyful melodies of children singing by the bonfire that roared in the center of the village. As I approached the fire, which smelled of sweet apple wood, I listened to a volunteer, dressed in the warm winter clothing of a man that would typically be found in the 1800s, who was telling stories of the medical issues of the day and how they were often solved. The subject matter did not appeal to me but the narratorís demeanor held me captive just the same. He felt different to me somehow. His polite mannerisms, the way he held his lapel, the twinkle in his eye perhaps, all held me spellbound in his presence.
I reluctantly left the warmth of the fire in search of the boarding place for the horse drawn wagon but I found myself distracted from this mission by so many different events that were happening all around the village. I wandered into the Fenno House where a man and woman sat in front of a stocking-clad fireplace. The man was playing a tin flute rather well and his companion, dressed as you see in this photo, was a charming young woman who clearly had a way with children.
There were simple toys spread all about the table in front of them and we all listened to stories of how some of our current Christmas traditions had evolved out of Holland. Clearly the tales being told in front of the fireplace fascinated the young children in the room. I felt myself slow down. We donít realize how much we hurry through life until we find ourselves in another time, a time that runs slower, and more deeply than our every day lives.
This is the way it is in Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge Massachusetts. Surrounded by a land and people that existed hundreds of years ago, you canít help but to melt into the times. It just happens to you here. There is a feeling of peace and serenity that permeates into your bones. The old me wanted to run to every exhibit, check the schedule of events, make sure I was on time and in the right place for everything, but the visitor here just naturally slowed down to the pace of the times that I found myself immersed in.
There are so many things to take in here, from the puppet or magic shows, meeting Father Christmas, sampling cider mull, chestnuts, making your own Christmas keepsake out of tin, viewing the gingerbread contest, seeing an amazing miniature Christmas village, joining a dance in the Parsonage Barn, visiting a 19th century store, attending Christmas readings and carolers, to learning the history of poinsettias, Yule Logs and more.
I found myself obsessing over the need for snow while driving to Sturbridge, but it really wasnít necessary. Somehow, the Christmas By Candlelight Celebration at Old Sturbridge Village held its own quite nicely, even without any snow.
Leave yourself plenty of time to enjoy these activities and realize that you will slow down while you are here. Donít rush through it. Enjoy the most sacred thing that this place has to offer, the gift of another time.