In search of the historic Christmas spirit in New England? These nine Christmas celebrations are guaranteed to fill you with old-fashioned holiday cheer.
By Aimee Tucker
Dec 10 2019
Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village.Photo Credit : Erika Sidor/Courtesy of Old Sturbridge Village
Please note that businesses, attractions, and events throughout New England have been modified, closed, and/or canceled in response to the COVID-19 health crisis. Please travel responsibly, and check with state guidelines and individual businesses and organizations before making travel plans.
In a region as rich in history as New England, taking a trip to the Christmas past is easy, and doesn’t require help (or a visit) from any Dickensian spirits. If you’re feeling historically festive, you can head to one of the region’s many terrific living history museums for special holiday programs, or tour a historic house or two for examples of historic Christmas decor and style from different eras of New England history.
Here are some of our favorite places to experience the best historic Christmas celebrations in New England. Which is your favorite?
*** Updated for 2020 ***
Prepare to be sparkled and dazzled as you tour three of the magnificent Newport Mansions (The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House) decked out in Gilded Age Yuletide finery, including thousands of poinsettias, fresh flowers, evergreens, wreaths, and more than 20 Christmas trees. At The Breakers, don’t miss the gingerbread mansion display in the kitchen or the iconic 15 foot tall red poinsettia tree. newportmansions.org
SEE MORE: Christmas at the Newport Mansions
Explore one of New England’s finest 19th century mansions decked out in glittering holiday finery. Each year a team of local designers get to work decorating each room to complement the year’s theme. Tours are self-guided, and the mansion also hosts a roster of special holiday events throughout the season. victoriamansion.org
Lantern Light Tours at Mystic Seaport offer a glimpse of Christmas Eve in 1876. Seasonal delights include a traditional tavern dance, a horse-drawn carriage ride and the glow of hundreds of lanterns, not to mention the possibility of a visit from jolly St. Nick himself! mysticseaport.org
Experience the beauty of a Victorian Christmas Robert Lincoln (the only surviving adult son of President Abraham Lincoln) and his wife Mary would have when they celebrated the holiday season at Hildenein 1909. On the weekend of December 3-4, the museum store welcomes visitors to shop for the holidays with special sounds and tastes of the season. And after your visit, the nearby upscale Manchester Designer Outlets are also ideal for holiday shopping. hildene.org
SEE MORE: Celebrating Christmas in Manchester and Woodstock, Vermont
Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village whisks you back to New England during the early 1800’s, with sleigh rides, Victorian carolers, Christmas readings, gingerbread and mulled cider samples, a re-creation of Mrs. Cratchit’s Christmas dinner, musical performances, the chance to vote in the annual gingerbread house contest, and so much more! osv.org
SEE MORE: Old Sturbridge Village | A Christmas by Candlelight Celebration
Who needs Halloween? Trade your broomstick for a peppermint stick and enjoy a festive peek at a number of 18th and 19th-century homes decorated for Christmas in Salem. There’s also a free trolley service, dining and shopping discounts, and special events and performances throughout the city. christmasinsalem.org
Enjoy the special sights and sounds of a Shaker-style Christmas at Canterbury Shaker Village. Take a candlelight stroll through the Village, watch a 19th Century magic show, enjoy live music and tasty treats, or ride in a horse-drawn wagon. shakers.org
SEE MORE:Christmas at Canterbury Shaker Village
Discover the traditions of a 19th century Vermont farm Christmas, complete with horse-drawn sleigh and wagon rides, farmhouse tours, and the chance to make special Christmas crafts. Each weekend (including Woodstock’s popular Wassail Weekend) offers something new. billingsfarm.org
Stroll through life in a simpler time as 350 years of American history, winter traditions, and holiday celebrations unfold around you in the state’s oldest waterfront neighborhood. Activities include historic house tours, horse-drawn carriage rides, live music, traditional barrel making demonstrations, 18th-century holiday hearth cooking, tinsmith demonstrations, and more. strawberybanke.org
SEE MORE:Exploring Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, NH
Where’s your favorite place to celebrate a historic Christmas in New England?
This post was first published in 2015 and has been updated.