The Hippo


May 29, 2020








Magician seeks audience participation at a previous Christmas at Canterbury magic show. Courtesy photo.

Christmas at Canterbury

Where: Canterbury Shaker 
Village, 288 Shaker Road, Canterbury
When: Saturdays, Dec. 5 and 12, from 3 to 8 p.m.
Cost: $18 for adults, $8 for children ages 6 to 17, free for children under 5. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Village.

Holidays of yore
Shaker Village celebrates traditional Shaker Christmas

By Angie Sykeny

 Have you ever wondered what Christmas was like 200 years ago? You can find out when Canterbury Shaker Village hosts its annual Christmas at Canterbury event, a 19th-century Shaker Christmas experience with activities, music, costumed characters, a tree-lighting and more, on Saturdays, Dec. 5 and Dec. 12.

 “It’s a step back in time, but not a history lesson,” Funi Burdick, village executive director, said. “We take our historic buildings, decorate them [to look] beautiful, yet simple, infuse each with an activity for families to gather and share the delights of Christmas while also relating [the activities] to how the Shakers would have used that space.”
At least 15 buildings will be in use at the event. A candlelit path will lead visitors to each building, which they can explore at their own pace.
There will be ongoing hands-on activities like making Christmas cards and cow ornaments, as well as gingerbread cookie-decorating in the dwelling house kitchen.
For the first time in 15 years, the upstairs space in the school house will be open to the public. The Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki Trio and Shindy with Randy Miller and Roger Kahle will perform fiddle music in this space throughout the evening.
“This year, the hope was to use smaller rooms for music performances to create a more intimate setting,” Burdick said. “The value [of visiting the village] is that it’s not like the Verizon Center. It’s where Shakers lived and worked … and [the new space] seems to exude a more warm, community feeling.”
Visitors will meet several costumed characters throughout the village. In the schoolhouse, a 19th-century teacher will share what it’s like running a one-room schoolhouse. In the infirmary, which was once a Shaker dentist office, a dentist will talk about dentistry practices used in the 19th century. Stop by the carpentry attic to meet a train conductor and see his intricate model train display. There will also be Shaker artisans in various buildings demonstrating rug-hooking, making oval boxes, using a printing press and more.
Prepare to be amazed at the old-fashioned magic show, held inside the chapel, where the Shakers hosted their own entertainment. The magician will play the character of one of the first U.S. magicians and will perform several mystifying tricks.
“It’s much more complicated than a pull-a-rabbit-out-of-a-hat thing,” Burdick said. “Last year … [a young girl] said to me, ‘Did you see that? How did he do it? I’m gonna come back every year to see if I can figure it out.’ … I think that sums up the whole program from a child’s perspective.”   
The evening will close with the Village Christmas tree-lighting inside the chapel. There will be hot cider and a piano-accompanied Christmas carol sing-along as the tree is lighted.
Visitors are also welcome to check out some of the village exhibits, browse handmade gifts for sale in the museum store and have dinner at the Shaker restaurant. Menu items include butternut squash soup, chicken picatta, berry cobbler, spiced grape cider and more. The restaurant is open from 4 to 9 p.m., and reservations are strongly recommended. The cost is $20 for adults and $10 for kids.  
“Families want Christmas to be a special time, but, of course, it’s hard to have a magic show and performers and multiple activity tables in your own home,” Burdick said. “By taking out the commercialism and keeping [Christmas at Canterbury] simple and magical, we make it feel like it’s your family’s own holiday tradition.” 

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