I have a tradition; every year around December 1st I take a long weekend and go stay at a historic inn in New England. Sometimes I venture to Concord, Massachusetts to stay at Concord’s Colonial Inn, walk Walden Pond, visit Orchard House and take in the grounds of the Old Manse but usually I go to the Publick House Inn in Sturbridge Massachusetts to attend Sturbridge Village’s Christmas by Candlelight. The tradition began as a spur of the moment trip in December 2009 to Sturbridge Village—one of my favorite places of childhood. My fiancé and I went, had a blissful time and were contemplating returning in 2010 when I was fatefully asked to give a reading at the Jacob Edwards Library in Southbridge, Massachusetts (the neighboring town) on the first weekend in December. Thus one trip began a yearly pilgrimage.
This past weekend was our weekend away. The trip was far from perfect. Seemingly everything that could go wrong did; the trail of difficult included a broken bed, stomach flu and issues with work that invaded our period of calm; however the trip wasn’t a complete bust. Despite everything that went wrong, we managed to enjoy moments here and there, such as our holiday dinner at the inn’s Tavern. The meal consisted of roasted duck, cornbread and sausage dressing and roasted butternut squash.. Finally and much to our relief, when the night of the lantern-lit walk through Sturbridge Village came, things couldn’t have gone smoother.
I cannot convey the magic of the evening or paint the full scope of the experience for you. I can only give you a brief sketch and try to do justice to this: our comforting New England scene.
We arrived at dusk. Grass-paneled lanterns line the dirt pathways. White twinkle-lights entwined with garland wind their way around the stretching wooden fences. A bonfire burns on the village green. In the distance carolers sing in costume on the stone steps of the old bank—their voices carrying over the roof tops, settling on the village, a resounding hymn.
Father Christmas sits fireside in the Tavern, his soft leather boots muddy on the wide floor boards, his broad body wrapped in soft green robes, long beard glistening in the firelight. The smell of gingerbread, fruitcake and cider travels up from downstairs. Somewhere in the distance I hear the clap of hooves on the cold ground. Two Clydesdales are pulling a carriage through the winding roads.
Seeking warmth we sit for a time on the village green, staring into the depth of the white flames of the bonfire. As the oak logs smolder my pressing worries give way to peace.
At the end of the evening, as the candlelit village grows smaller in the distance, one truth resounds within me: The smell of the hearth makes me homesick for a land my mind cannot recall but my heart knows.
On Christmas morning my favorite breakfast to make was a baked apple.
1 Apple of your choice. (I use Golden Delicious.)
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Chopped Walnuts
1 Tablespoons Raisins
Core out the center of the apple. Place apple on tinfoil. Stuff the hole with the butter and brown sugar. Sprinkle nuts and raisin over and around apple. Enclose the apple with tinfoil and bake in a 350° oven for 20-30 mins (depending on size) until soft.