Updated: December 18, 2013
For many folks, the holidays not only represent warmth and the togetherness of family but also stress: much of which can be linked to the pressure to buy gifts. As consumerism wanes, and the priorities of family, health, warmth and nourishment hold increasing precedence, many Vermonters and visitors from beyond opt to spend their resources celebrating holiday time together, rather than on a rush of wasteful presents (beyond those with meaning and from Santa, of course). Whether you stay at a family home, a vacation rental, an inn or a resort, Christmas and New Year's in Vermont are steeped in tradition and sprinkled with magic.
If you'd like to embrace the spirit of Christmas in Vermont this year, here are an insider’s favorite holiday season events and activities from around the state:
Courtesy of Billings Farm & Museum
If you are in Vermont at Christmas time, don't miss a visit to the 19th-century luminescence displayed at Vermont's rural heritage museum. Open weekends in December and daily December 21 through January 1 (excluding Christmas Day), Billings Farm & Museum
in Woodstock, Vermont, offers tours of the authentically decorated farmhouse, plus opportunities to make historic ornaments and crafts, ride a horse-drawn sleigh and sled with jack jumpers.
Courtesy of Max Kraus
Enjoy month-long holiday cheer displays in the Christmas card town of Middlebury, Vermont. A whimsical hut serves hot chocolate on the town green. On Sunday, December 22, the famed Annual Community Messiah Sing is held at the Congregational Church at 2 p.m., followed by a winter solstice celebration at the Town Hall Theater at 4 p.m. Hunt for gingerbread men in storefronts with the I Spy 10 Tiny Gingerbread Men contest, and win "Middlebury Money" through December 31. New Year's Eve in Middlebury features fireworks, ice skating, dancing and a dinner theater show.
The best place in Vermont for kids to meet Santa is at the St. Johnsbury Train Depot and Welcome Center, as he listens to whispered wishes every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night of the season through December 21. Photos with St. Nick and a full spectrum of kids' activities in one of Vermont's most spirited villages make for a memorable outing with little ones.
At 12:21 p.m. local time on the winter solstice, 12.21.13, singers across the globe will gather to sing together. With a message to heal the Earth, the song can be learned through a YouTube video
and is led by the Good Earth Singers. All are invited to participate. Public singing events will take place in 10 Vermont locations including Burlington, Montpelier, Norwich and Danville, as well as in locations worldwide
Media photo courtesy of the Bennington Museum
More than 20 trees decorated by Bennington, Vermont-area community groups are on display at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont, through December 30 (closed Christmas Day). This year's theme is "Hidden Gems," and tree creators were invited to select rarely exhibited items from the museum's collections to inspire and be displayed within their tree vignettes. Admission to the museum is $10 for adults, free for children under 18. Looking for inspired gifts? On Thursday, December 19, the Museum Gift Shop is open late until 7 p.m., and all items are 20% off.
Barre Universalist Church and Unitarian Church of Montpelier will resound with O Morning Star: Music from Four Centuries for the Christmas Season
featuring works performed by the 60-voice Onion River Chorus. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors at the Saturday, December 21, 2013 performance in Barre at 7:30 p.m. and at the Sunday, December 22, 2013 concert in Montpelier at 4 p.m.
© 2012 Rachel Carter
When the tinsel starts clogging the vacuum, the recycle bin is overloaded with wrapping paper and the drying balsam needles are sticking to your socks, it is time to explore your New Year's Eve options. Vermont has plenty to offer. Popular, family-friendly First Night events can be found in Burlington and at Stratton Mountain. The Vermont Department of Tourism provides creative suggestions for celebrating New Year's Eve in Vermont
, whether you'd like to contra dance as you count down to '14 or howl in the new year at a dog parade.