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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

John R. Park Homestead celebrates Christmas in the County

by Kyle Reid

The John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area celebrated the days of Christmas past last Sunday, decorating the farm and pioneer home as it would have been centuries ago for the annual Christmas in the County event.

The Homestead has been organizing holiday-themed events for some three decades now. This year’s event was an educational and thrilling demonstration of old-fashioned holiday fun, with homestead staff and volunteers decked out in traditional pioneer outfits to educate guests on 19th century Christmastime traditions.

The event featured hands-on activities, like stringing popcorn, baking cookies over an open fire, and wreathmaking. Visitors could warm up from the brisk, but fair, weather over a log fire, while sipping on a mug of hot cider and snacking on traditional roasted chestnuts.

“If you’ve never had chestnuts roasted on an open fire, now’s the time,” Homestead staff member Jess Rose said.

There were also demonstrations of pioneer work life, like woodworking and blacksmithing, to the delight of homestead visitors. Undoubtedly, however, the most popular attraction of the event was the horse-drawn carriage rides, which took visitors on a small tour of the homestead area.

German folklore figures, and Santa Claus’s historic counterparts, Ruprecht and Belsnickel, also visited the homestead to share their naughty and nice lists with guests. The duo also showcased their white mare-the traditional sleigh animal before Santa’s reindeer, Rose explained.

“I’ve heard quite a few celebrations from children who were happy to know they were on the nice list this year,” Rose said. “We had one name on the naughty list though, on a special request from his partner.”

The event was surely entertaining and informative for the hundreds who attended. Smiles were plenty among guests who learned and experienced pioneer-style Christmas traditions. As for the many volunteers and staff at the homestead who helped organize the event, the annual Christmas events are an engaging way to connect people to a simpler time and spirit of holidays gone by.

“The holidays get quite busy,” Rose said. “I think the pioneer pace of life is a nice way to relax and get to enjoy some of the traditions in a different way.”

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