Halloween has barely ended but there is still much to fear...pressure's on, people, as we tumble into THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!! MUUHHHHAAAA!!!
This post is mostly about Wassail Weekend in Woodstock, VT, the impossibly charming and fun holiday weekend that attracts visitors from all over. It's magical, beautiful, and I am super excited that this year I'll be able to attend some of the festivities.
Before we proceed, if you are reading this, and you are already dreading the holidays, I want you to know I've been there...a few times. For the broken hearted, grieving, and overwhelmed, I've got something for you too. Click here to skip the quaint New England festivities and allow me to indulge in your misery.
For those of you already strategizing to make this YOUR BEST CHRISTMAS EVERRRR, then I highly recommend you consider a visit to Woodstock, VT, and its annual Wassail Weekend happening December 7th - December 9th. Many Hallmark Christmas movies are filmed in Vermont and there is a very good reason - it's the stuff of Christmas dreams! Just in case my over-use of exclamation points isn't convincing enough, check out these Instagram shots from last year:
I'm pretty sure Billy the Elf himself arranged all the activities for the weekend:
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7th
All DAY: Billings Farm Tour: Tour the festively decorated 1890 Farm House and farm barns; make a historic ornament as a memento of your visit.
4pm: Woodstock Elementary School Choir sings on the Library Steps
5pm - 7pm: Woodstock History Center: Start your Wassail Weekend with a Holiday Open House on Friday, December 7, from 5-7 pm. The Woodstock History Center’s museum will be open with special holiday displays, hot cider, seasonal treats, a silent auction, Celtic music, and more.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8th
9:30am and 1:30pm: Woodstock Annual House Tours: Basically, Woodstock has a lot of people with great taste and design abilities, and they decorate their historic homes and then let hundreds (thousands?) of complete strangers come inside and take a peek. The tours begin at the Town Hall.
2pm: The Equestrian Parade: Put on by the High Horses Therapeutic Riding Program and the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce, this is the highlight of the whole weekend. The best location to watch the parade is on the Village Green located in the center of Woodstock.
8pm: Christmas with the Celts at Pentangle: Nova Scotia’s powerhouse Còig presents an evening of fiery Celtic holiday tunes from their 2015 album Carols.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9th
All DAY: Billings Farm Sleigh Rides.
3pm: Holiday Film Showing: Home Alone at the Pentangle.
4pm - 6pm: Community Messiah Sing: A world-class ensemble and four featured soloists perform a stirring rendition of the Christmas portions of Handel’s Messiah. The audience joins in for the choruses, bringing the Christmas Spirit Meter to the max!
The main Hotels and Inns in Woodstock have already sold out for the weekend but there are a number of great looking Airbnb's still available. Here are a few that caught my eye - book now if you can as they will sell out!
If you make it to Woodstock this year please share your pictures on Instagram where you can tag us @weekends_around or #weekendingaround. And if you've been before and want to recommend a great place to eat, shop, or drink, comment below!
not feeling the cheer this year? This is for you. xoxo
The first Christmas after my mom died (2010) was impossibly painful. There were moments where I literally thought I would die, or my dad would die, or one of my siblings would die, simply overcome by the magnitude of our grief. My mother straight up made Christmas magical, but always with a solid sense of humor. The year one of my friends' put all the creche characters (you can see I spent a lot of time in Church) into various sexual positions, she kept it that way, stating "Now that's a Christmas Party!" That first Christmas without her was heart-wrenching. There is no better term for it. Heart-wrenching.
Foolish optimisim is quite possibly my family's greatest trait. We definitely took comfort in the fact that next year, 2011, would be better. And wouldn't you know, it was actually worse. So much worse.
In May of 2011 my father suffered a massive heart attack. It's a long, miserable story, but he was completely conscious yet on every form of life support possible for nine months. He could write notes, sit up, read a freaking newspaper, but he couldn't breathe, eat, walk, or do any basic bodily functions on his own. This was a medical, emotional, and physical nightmare. There was no obvious end to his suffering and as the months wore on, even we had to accept that a recovery wasn't going to happen.
We spent the 2011 Christmas taking hospital shifts by his bed, trying to make him smile, but mostly it was silent. This was a period to simply endure, to just be in the room. My sister and I took the Christmas Eve / Christmas Morning shift. We had gone straight from the train station (where she had picked me up) to the hospital, put on our best show, and then tearfully drove to the empty apartment of my parents.
As my sister and I approached their door, an ominous sticker loomed large. "YOU NO LONGER GET TO LIVE HERE" or something like that had been plastered, just days earlier, by the Co-Op board. When we had learned that he'd need to live in a nursing home for the rest of his life, at $12,000 per month, it was impossible to also cover the mortgage. This may be shocking to read but it's far from uncommon. Finally, the bills had caught up.
My sister and I looked at each other, paused, and laughed hysterically. It really was funny. It still makes me laugh to this day. I mean, it's so horrible it's funny! We gingerly tried the key in the door - it opened! We ripped the sticker off, threw our bags in, and bolted back towards the elevator. We went to a nearby Italian restaurant and drank far too much Sambuca, crying and laughing far too loudly, knowing full well this would be the last time we'd step foot in that restaurant or sleep in that apartment again. We didn't tell our dad about it the next day, and spent Christmas Night at The Mark Hotel (a gift from my hotel connections from my previous life). As we ate and drank and marveled at our truly bad luck, we were briefly distracted by a scene straight out of The Real Housewives. "WOW!" a tall blond shouted to a young man rolling through the restaurant in an electronic wheelchair, "I wish I had one of those!" The man, the epitome of grace, smiled and said, "Yes, it sure is handy." Once again we were reminded that life could be worse. We could have been born and raised to be total assholes, and so we toasted once again, this time to our good fortune.
So, if you are gearing up for a less than Hallmark holiday, I'm sorry. Truly. I'm sorry for your grief, pain, depression, anxiety, loneliness or whatever it may be that weighs heavy on your heart. In your honor I have made two donations, one to Zen Hospice Project and one to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. I wasn't originally planning to make that second donation, but I had a lengthy dream about Anthony Bourdain last night, and so I've followed my cue.
As you navigate this challenging time, I give you the words of my brother Jim, who describes how sadness transforms, "The funny thing about holidays now is that I feel so connected to Mom and Dad. Dad around Halloween, and Mom at Christmas. It’s like they are alive in me. It brings tears sometimes, but the best kind of tears. The kind that make you feel so alive."
And don't forget, there's always next Christmas. Errr...or maybe the one after that :-).
I started Weekends Arounds to marry my passion for hospitality and interior design with my love of New England. Because lodging has the greatest impact on a travel experience, I only feature Airbnbs, home rentals, and hotels that I have personally visited (and on my own dime and time - always). I’ll share all my detailed itineraries, photography, and recommendations so that you, too, can experience this beautiful part of the world.