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

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.

A Furry Point of View Art Show in Litchfield CT

Litchfield, Connecticut artist Elizabeth Wolff is excited to show a new collection of her whimsical mice in an exhibition of her one woman show “A Furry Point of View.” Many other creatures, including turtles, pigs, foxes, and feather-headed chickens, will join her mice in a gallivant across paper for all to enjoy.

For years the townspeople of Litchfield and the surrounding areas have supported this young illustrator as her work has developed and this show will be a celebration of that ongoing friendship.

Since she was a little tyke of 3 or 4 years old, Elizabeth has eagerly devoured countless picture books with illustrations by Beatrix Potter, Jan Brett, Graham Oakley, and Kevin Henkes.

As a spirited color enthusiast, Elizabeth began drawing with bright markers and crayon scribbles at a very young age. Today, she is a young artist seeking to master her media of choice which includes pen and ink, colored pencils and a little dabble of watercolors. Elizabeth finds inspiration from episodes of daily life that influence her characters own unique and comical plots. In the near future she aspires to become a children’s book illustrator and in such a hectic world, people might enjoy the optimism and humor that her fuzzy friends bring to life…inky paws and all. Her website is www.ewolffdesigns.com.


In the gallery: November 1- December 28 at the Oliver Wolcott Library, 160 South Street, Litchfield, CT. 06759. 860-567-8030. www.owlibrary.org. To accommodate the December holiday season, purchased works of art may be picked up at the Oliver Wolcott Library after 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 and immediately upon purchase throughout the month of December.

For area information www.litchfieldhills.com.