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 of the year at the historic site, the festival will feature fresh greenery and trees, handcrafted wreaths and roping, and other holiday decorations.  There will be unique folk arts and crafts, 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, and you can pamper yourself with a variety of herbal products, soaps and natural lotions.  More than two dozen area and regional vendors will have their wares on display and for sale on both sides of the historic Gaines-Preston farm.

But Christmas in the Country is more than just a shopping venue, it will also feature hands-on activities for all ages, such as dipping candles and making pomander balls, led by our Junior Apprentices, and decorating with natural materials, led by the Girl Scouts.  Our hearthside kitchen will be up and running, offering demonstrations of 19th century cooking and baking with the theme of “A Backcountry Plantation Christmas Feast,” which may feature delicacies such as boiled puddings, nut pies, and stewed and roasted meats and vegetables.  And Will Vogt from Graysburg Forge in Limestone will once again be working in the blacksmith shop, demonstrating how horseshoes and wagon wheels and even simple tools were made in the days before the Industrial Revolution.

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, moved to England when the Normans conquered the isles, and eventually 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.  We encourage everyone present to bring their own sprig to cast onto the fire, and also 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, not exactly what is 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 email@exchangeplace.info.