Bethlehem, Connecticut, Offers Festive Start to the Holiday Season

They call this little town in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut “Christmas Town” with good reason. Bethlehem’s 33rd annual Christmas Town Festival scheduled for December 6 and 7, is one of New England’s favorite ways to kick off the season. Wherever you turn, special treats are waiting, from the town green to the post office to the Abbey of Regina Laudis and the 1754 Bellamy-Ferriday House, and some of the distinctive attractions continue when the festival is over.

Bethlehem’s quaint town green, centered with a giant tree, is offers over 70 vendors with gift items, wreaths and foods for sale, strolling carolers and musicians. Santa is at the firehouse to pose for pictures and everyone is invited to climb aboard for hayrides offered in front of First Church. Collectors can garner this year’s unique limited edition Christmas Town pewter ornament, sold only during the Festival.

Bethlehem’s beautiful 18th century Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden is festively decorated and open for guided tours, hot cider and a scavenger hunt for children (9 Main Street North, www.ctlandmarks.org).

Hours for the Christmas Town Festival are Friday, December 6 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday, December 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, see www.christmastownfestival.com or phone 203-266-7510, ext. 300.

Christmas Town Mailings at the Post Office

As you can imagine, the Bethlehem post office is especially busy in December serving the many who come every year to mail holiday cards with the special postmarks.  Visitors can select favorites among the “Christmas Cachet” designs, hand-stamp and mail these unique greetings to friends and family. The idea of the special stamps dates to 1938, when a local Postmaster, the late Earl Johnson, designed a “cachet,” a special rubber stamp featuring a tree and lettering that said “From the Little Town of Bethlehem, Christmas Greetings.” New cachets have been added almost every year since. Over 70 designs are now available and nearly 200,000 cards are mailed each year from this small post office.  Located at 34 East Street, the post office will have extended hours during the festival, Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Precious Crèches at the Abbey

One of Bethlehem’s not-to-be-missed jewels is open all month. The museum-quality 18th century Neapolitan crèche on view in a vintage barn at the Abbey of Regina Laudis includes hundreds of beautiful hand-carved figures. Made of wood, terra cotta, and porcelain, the figures portray the Holy Family, angels, the Three Kings, merchants and peddlers, children, peasants and farm animals.  This fabulous gift from artist and philanthropist Loretta Hines Howard is similar to the one Howard donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it is prominently displayed every Christmas.

A second Crèche, The Lauren Ford Crèche, created by a favorite Connecticut artist, is displayed in a farm shed near the Lower Abbey Chapel. This charming rustic Nativity scene displays figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph dressed in typical New England garb.

The Monastic Art Shop on the property offers crafts, cheeses, jams, herbal teas, flavored vinegars, herbs and honey, and all created on site by the Abbey’s residents.

The Abbey of Regina Laudis, located at 249 Flanders Road, is open to visitors daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.abbeyofreginalaudis.org

For more information, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, 860-567-4506, or visit www.visitwesternct.com.

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