Courtesy of Billings Farm & Museum
Visitors enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride with Phil Warren and Percherons Lynn and Sue around the snow-covered fields at Billings Farm & Museum.
Dec. 5-6—WOODSTOCK—Discover the traditions of a 19th century Vermont Christmas with a visit to the Billings Farm & Museum, the gateway to Vermont’s rural heritage. Christmas at the Billings Farm will be featured on weekends in December and Dec. 19–Jan. 3, 2016, (excluding Christmas Day) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours of the authentically decorated farmhouse, visits to the dairy farm for interactive programs including “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.
During the first weekend, Dec. 5 and 6, visitors can enjoy making Christmas silhouettes and poppers, and candle dipping. Dec. 11-13 is Woodstock’s Wassail Weekend Celebration, with the addition of horse-drawn sleigh rides, weather permitting.
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. 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 doorways throughout the house. Small trees, packed in a jar or butter tub that stood 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 handmade paper ornaments, which rounded out many a tree’s decorations.
In Woodstock, turn-of-the-century businesses advertised their wares for Christmas gifts. Nearly all of the gifts were useful domestic items: fabric, clothing, umbrellas, linens, crockery, and carpet sweepers. Homemade, handcrafted items including fancy mittens and satin bows, and stockings filled with candies, nuts and raisins were among the most common type of gift given on Christmas Day.
Admission is $14 for adults; $13 for those over age 62; $8 for children ages 5-12; $4 for ages 3-4; under 3 years of age are free.