BETHLEHEM (CT) OFFERS A FESTIVE START TO THE HOLIDAY SEASON

They call this little town in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut “Christmas Town” with good reason. Bethlehem’s Christmas Town Festival scheduled for December 6 and 7, celebrates its 39th birthday this year as 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. Some of the unique attractions continue when the festival is over. This year the opening ceremony will feature Honorary Emcee WFSB Ch, 3 news personalities, Irene O’Connor.

Vendors and More On the Green

The quaint town green, centered with a giant tree, is home to over 70 vendors with unique gift items, wreaths and delicious foods for sale. Strolling carolers and musicians help keep things lively, Santa will be waiting at the firehouse to pose for pictures with young friends, 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.

On Saturday there is a 5K, Santa Made Me Do It road race, 2-mile walk and ¼ mile kids fun run at the festival. The five mile race and two-mile walk begin at 10 a.m. and registration is at Town Hall beginning at 8:30 a.m. The free kids ¼ kids Fun Run starts at 9:30 a.m.

Bethlehem’s beautiful eighteenth-century Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden will be festively decorated and open for tours and holiday cheer during festival hours. Guides will offer house tours and there will be hot cider and a scavenger hunt for children. The home is located at 9 Main Street North, information can be found at http://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

The Bethlehem post office is busy in December serving the many who come every year to mail holiday cards with their unique 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 83 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, December 6 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Precious Crèches at the Abbey

One of Bethlehem’s not-to-be-missed jewels is open all month for visitors. The museum-quality eighteenth-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 vinegar, herbs and honey, and all created on-site by 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

New Season for the Clay and Wattles Theatre in Bethlehem

The 2014 Season at The Gary-The Olivia Theater in Bethlehem (on the grounds of the Abbey of Regina Laudis) begins with two one-act plays written by American Playwright Horton Foote. “Blind Date” and “The Actor” will be performed on June 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7:30 pm and June 15 and 22 at 2:30 pm.

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These beautifully written comedies set in the fictional town of Harrison, Texas are guaranteed to delight audiences with their poetry, insight into human nature and comic touch.

A prolific writer and winner of many awards. Mr. Foote wrote over 60 plays, television dramas and screenplays spanning a sixty year career. Perhaps most widely know for his screenplays for the films To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Tender Mercies (1983), winning the Oscar for both, Mr. Foote received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1995 for the play, The Young Man From Atlanta.

Both comedies deal with conflicts between the generations. In Blind Date, a former beauty pageant queen tries to persuade her recalcitrant and unwilling niece on the art of “How to attract a suitor,” and in The Actor, the well-intentioned parents try to dissuade their young son from pursuing a career in the theater.

Set in the fictional South Texas town of Harrison in the 1930’s, these plays bring out both the charm and pitfalls of small town USA in a humorous and engaging way.

On Friday, June 13, 2014, our opening night gala performance for Blind Date and The Actor will include complimentary wines from Walker Road Vineyards and local artisan made cheeses. Tickets are $25 per person for opening night and $20 per person for the run of the show. Season Subscription Package and Senior Discounts are available at: http://www.thegarytheolivia.com. 11 yrs and younger are admitted free.

Admission for opening night and details on our 2014 season is at: thegarytheolivia.com. More information:info@thegarytheolivia.com or 203-273-5669.

Bethlehem New England’s Christmas Town

Over 70 special holiday cache’s to choose from

To get into the proper holiday spirit early, the place to be the first weekend in December is the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. Festivals galore start the season right in this region that is always as pretty as a Christmas card, and there are numerous opportunities to check off your holiday shopping list in scenic settings. The only dilemma is where to go first.

One good place to start is Connecticut’s own little town of Bethlehem, a quaint, village that is transformed each December, when it becomes New England’s favorite Christmas Town.

Thousands of visitors arrive to mail their Christmas cards with a Bethlehem postmark and to enjoy the 30th annual gala Christmas Town Festival, set this year for Friday night December 7 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a tree lighting at 6 p.m. and Saturday, December 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. The town green is transformed for the occasion with some 70 vendors offering crafts and good food. Bring the family for musical entertainment, hayrides and the chance for a photo with Santa. Find the complete schedule at www.christmastownfestival.com

Bethlehem’s historic Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden will be festively decorated for the weekend, with themed decorations in each of the first floor rooms. Children will enjoy games, prizes and surprises and refreshments in the Visitor’s Center. This house will be open during festival hours, December 7 and 8 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For details, phone (203) 266-7596. For details, phone (203) 266-7596 or visit www.ctlandmarks.org

Bethlehem also offers the chance to visit a rare museum-quality 18th century Neapolitan Crèche housed in a barn at the Abbey of Regina Laudis. Check the hours at www.abbeyofreginalaudis.com

The Bethlehem Post Office is also offering extended hours. Bring your holiday cards and stamp them with a special cache. There are 76 stamp designs to choose from as one new design is added each year. The post office will be open with extended hours for the festival. The post office is open on Fri. Dec. 7 from 8 am to 8 pm; on Sat, December 8, 15, & 22 from 8 am to 3 pm and Mon.- Fri. 8 am to 5 pm the month of December

For area information on where to stay, shop and dine, please visit www.litchfieldhills.com.