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 6, 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 this is more than just another shopping opportunity. In keeping with the mission of Exchange Place, Christmas in the Country will show a slice of 1850s wintertime farm life in our region, and how our ancestors would have prepared for the holidays. Inside our hearthside kitchen there will be day-long demonstrations of 19th century cooking and baking, as volunteers prepare seasonal meals on the open hearth (no gas or electric stoves in those days!), returning to the theme of African-American food ways first explored at our Fall Folk Arts Festival in September. Dishes like Hoppin’ John, sweet potato pudding, collard greens, and country ham will be prepared, and our Junior Apprentices will be making seasonal favorites like cinnamon waffles and popcorn. Meanwhile, in our blacksmith shop, the skills that were needed to make hardware and tools for the farm, fix wagon wheels and, of course, shoe the horses, will be demonstrated throughout the day. There may also be demonstrations of candle-dipping and the making of ly soap.
Capping the day is the traditional Yule Log Ceremony, which will begin around 4:15 pm. Originated by the Vikings, it served as a way for them to honor their gods and request good luck in the coming year. Later it was incorporated into the harvest festivals of Germany and Scandinavia, then moved to England when the Normans conquered the isles and eventually migrated to the New World with the Pilgrims. While the Preston family may not have burned a Yule Log, we like to make it a part of our Christmas in the Country as a symbol of peace and good will for our wonderful community. Since it was often decorated with evergreens and sometimes sprinkled with grain or cider before it was finally lit, we encourage everyone to bring a sprig to cast onto the fire, and also to wear fine, colorful headgear to the event, which will conclude with the singing of carols and, of course, a cup of hot wassail! Derived from the Anglo-Saxon “waes hael,” which meant “Be in Health” or “Here’s to You,” wassail helps us to emphasizes the spirit of health and friendship.
For more information, you may call Exchange Place at 423-288-6071, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.