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December – Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Candlelight Stroll is an engaging event of sights, sounds, smells, and seasonal entertainment.
The Strawbery Banke Museum has always sponsored the highly popular event, the Candlelight Stroll and it all began when, recognizing that Yuletide customs in America prior to the 20th century were not widely known, the the museum staff planned a complementary three-day event, “Christmas at Strawbery Banke,” to coincide with the Guild’s craft fair in 1979.
In addition to walking the grounds of the museum and touring houses decorated in period styles, visitors were able to see craftspeople demonstrate traditional crafts. That year, the celebration attracted 6,000 visitors.
In 1980, “Christmas at Strawbery Banke” followed the same format, coinciding with the Guild’s Christmas fair. Again, staff relied on general histories of Christmas celebrations and established programs, such as Williamsburg, for direction in decorating the furnished houses. Period Christmas decorations were displayed in four of the museum’s furnished houses.
For the 1981 season, the event was renamed the “Candlelight Stroll” and took place from 6-9 pm on Friday, December 11th, and as the “Candlelight Stroll” evolved into an event with its own identity, the evenings were expanded to include first one weekend then the second.
After its auspicious beginning, the event was well on its way to becoming an established tradition in the Portsmouth holiday season.
Live musicians have become a large part of the event, performing music appropriate to the period of the furnished house they are stationed in. Choral groups from the area, from children’s groups to established adult choirs, perform throughout the grounds, as do various instrumental groups. Other entertainers include a period magician, puppets, and storytellers. Museum role players and re-enactors from various time periods stroll the grounds, and engage in lively discussion in the Revolutionary-era William Pitt Tavern. Bill Moss, in the persona of an 18th-century town crier, has been a fixture of the Candlelight Stroll since the early 1980s.
As Strawbery Banke restored and opened more buildings to the visiting public, the opportunities for new interpretations increased.
Today, the Candlelight Stroll has matured into an engaging event of sights, sounds, smells, and seasonal entertainment, which is now an established and cherished Seacoast area tradition.
For more information about the Strawbery Banke Museum at:
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