Dec. 24, 26-Jan. 1—WOODSTOCK—Discover the traditions of a late 19th century Vermont Christmas with a visit to the Billings Farm & Museum this holiday season. Christmas at the Billings Farm will be featured Dec. 24-Jan. 1, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (excluding Christmas Day). Tour the authentically decorated farmhouse, visit the dairy farm for interactive programs including “An Introduction to Milking” and “Milking the Herd” at 3:15 p.m. each day, holiday activities, plus the Academy Award® nominee film, “A Place in the Land” will be offered.
On Dec. 24, extra programs include making Christmas silhouettes and poppers, and candle dipping.
During Christmas week, Dec. 26-Jan. 1, will include horse-drawn sleigh or wagon rides, dependent on conditions, from 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. each day; plus making historic Christmas pomanders, ornaments or, snowflakes; and candle dipping.
Like most New England states, Vermont did not widely celebrate Christmas until late in the 19th century. It was not until 1890, when the farmhouse at the Billings Farm was completed, that Christmas became recognized as a holiday in all states. At that time, celebrations were much simpler than they would become in the 20th century and certainly today. Families enjoyed the holiday, but still had cows to milk, ice to cut, and wood to saw. A few gifts, a special meal, and the gathering of friends were noteworthy in an otherwise typical day.
Decorations of the period included fresh greens draped over mantels, windows, and staircases throughout the house. Small trees, packed in a jar or butter tub and placed on a tabletop were common. Many of the ornaments reflected an agricultural tradition, including strands of cranberries, popcorn, or dried apples that circled the tree. Apples studded with cloves, “exotic” oranges, silvered (foil-covered) chestnuts, painted pinecones, and acorns complemented the handmade paper ornaments, which rounded out many a tree’s decorations.
In Woodstock, turn-of-the-century businesses advertised their wares for Christmas gifts. Most gifts were useful domestic items: fabric, clothing, umbrellas, linens, crockery, and carpet sweepers. Homemade, handcrafted items including fancy mittens, satin bows, and stockings filled with candies, nuts, and raisins were among the most common gifts given on Christmas Day.
The Billings Farm & Museum is owned and operated by The Woodstock Foundation, Inc., a charitable non-profit institution.
Admission costs are as follows: adults, $14; 62 & over, $13; children 5-15, $8; 3-4, $4; 2 and under, free. The Farm & Museum is located one-half mile north of the Woodstock village green on Vermont Route 12. For more information, call 802-457-2355 or visit billingsfarm.org.
Photo courtesy of Billings Farm & Museum
Visitors enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride around the snow-covered grounds at Billings Farm & Museum. Lynne and Sue, black Percheron mares, are pulling the guests.