Christmas in the Country, the annual celebration of winter and the holiday season at Exchange Place Living History Farm, 4812 Orebank Road in Kingsport, will take place on Saturday, December 7, from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. Admission is free.
The last public event for the year at the historic site, the festival will feature fresh greenery and trees, handcrafted wreaths and roping, and paper wreaths and cloth flowers. There will be unique folk arts and handcrafts, such as hand-crafted wood items, barn wood furniture, jewelry, handmade baskets, pottery, quilts, handmade greeting cards and hooked rugs. Your taste buds will be tempted with baked goods, hot sauces, jams and jellies, and goat cheese, in addition to coffee, hot chocolate and snack foods. And you can pamper yourself with a variety of herbal products, lye soap, natural lotions as more than two dozen area and regional vendors will have their wares on display on both sides of the historic Gaines-Preston farm, and all will be available for sale.
But Christmas in the Country is more than just a shopping venue: it will also feature hands-on activities for all ages, plus demonstrations of hearthside cooking and baking on the historic 19th century farmstead.
The traditional Yule Log Ceremony at 4:15 pm concludes the day and is highlighted with the singing of carols around the bonfire and a cauldron of wassail. The burning of the Yule Log can be traced back to the Vikings, who were honoring their gods and asking for good luck in the coming year. It later became part of the harvest festival in Germany and Scandinavia, and eventually the Normans brought it to England when they conquered the isles, and of course it migrated to the New World with the Pilgrims. In the 1850s, the Preston family would have celebrated Christmas in a very plain, non-commercial way, and a Yule Log was probably not a part of their holiday, but we have traditionally added it to Christmas in the Country as a symbol of peace and good will for our wonderful community.
The Yule Log was often decorated with evergreens and sometimes sprinkled with grain or cider before it was finally lit, and after it died down (anywhere from twelve hours to twelve days), its ashes were scattered over the fields to bring fertility, or cast into wells to purify and sweeten the water. This year we are encouraging everyone present to bring their own sprig to cast onto the fire. We are also suggesting that people might want to wear fine, colorful headgear to the event.
The word wassail is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “waes hael,” which meant “Be in Health” or “Here’s to You.” Wassail was a mixture of mulled ale, eggs, curdled cream, roasted apples, nuts and spices, which is a far cry from the hot spiced juice blend served at Exchange Place! But the fellowship remains the same as in olden days!
For more information, you may call Exchange Place at 423-288-6071, or write to