Now in its tenth year, Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth is all about celebrating the winter, the warmth, the light, and our collective memories of holidays past. Presented by cultural anchors Strawbery Banke Museum and The Music Hall in the historic working seaport of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, this month-long city-wide event will once again offer the irresistible Candlelight Stroll that Strawbery Banke Museum has offered for 35 years, and the live holiday shows, opera broadcasts and films in The Music Hall’s landmark 1878 Historic Theater and the intimate Music Hall Loft on Congress Street. Get ready to cuddle up with a free trolley ride through red-bricked Market Square in this elegant and delightful holiday downtown, stroll through the snowflakes to the many eclectic shops, step back in time through living history at the festively decorated Strawbery Banke Museum, sample Portsmouth’s famous culinary specialties, or enjoy a first-class show at The Music Hall. Back by popular demand, the free Vintage Christmas trolley, courtesy of the City of Portsmouth, shuttles patrons around the historic seaport each Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evening for the first three weekends in December.
According to Monte Bohanan, Director of Marketing for The Music Hall, “Settled in the early 1600s, Portsmouth is the perfect town for Vintage Christmas since it’s a charming blend of the contemporary and historical. Culture, history, food – it’s an intoxicating mix.” Beyond sponsoring the trolley, The City coordinates the Illuminated Holiday Parade and ceremonial tree lighting on the first Saturday, decorates the Welcome to Portsmouth signs and period streetlights with large wreaths, and collaborates with ProPortsmouth on making First Night (New Year’s Eve) a spectacular evening in the city (ice sculpture, fireworks, live music). Finally, the library and recreation department have holiday programs.
Portsmouth was recently described by the Chicago Tribune as “one of the nation’s most kid-friendly, walkable, food-centric, historic, livable and romantic cities. On any East Coast car trip, a charming little must.” As a reporter from the venerable Yankee Magazine has said, “If another city does a better job of celebrating Christmas, I have yet to find it.” According to Stephanie Seacord, Director of Marketing at Strawbery Banke Museum, “Portsmouth is an enchanted village. And, the city can now add a new title to its list of many accomplishments thanks to an article published in Travel and Leisure magazine titled, “Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Christmas Capital of America?”
Seacoast historian J. Dennis Robinson ruminates on the meaning of the celebration, “The purpose of any holiday is ‘stopfulness’ — to stop, look around, and be aware. Out of that momentary awareness comes a healing and spiritual connection. We are ‘in the moment.’ We recognize that we are alive, and that our lives are short. …We compare our history against the history of others. Through the holiday tradition of giving presents, we become charitable. By receiving them, we become thankful. The pause is the gift.”
What’s new for 2014?
AT THE MUSIC HALL –
Live shows, films, HD broadcasts, historic tours, and a high-flying Broadway musical
Wonderful holiday fare is slated for The Music Hall’s two stages – the landmark Victorian 1878 theater and the contemporary Loft. Ragpickers Dream tells the stories of the holiday season in the intimate setting of the Loft, Messiah Sing creates a “happening” with Seacoast choral groups, and the year rounds out with Comedy Central’s Juston McKinney’s Last Laugh 2014. Watch for more announcements of films, HD broadcasts, Historic Tours, and live shows including a high-flying musical for the whole family as The Ogunquit Playhouse at The Music Hall Series continues to bring Broadway to the historic port – happening December 10 – 14 in the Historic Theater.
AT STRAWBERY BANKE MUSEUM –
Skating rink, time travel shop, food + drink at new café and historic tavern
Puddle Dock Pond at Strawbery Banke, the seasonal outdoor ice skating rink at the heart of the 10-acre living history museum site. In the spirit of Portsmouth’s rich performing arts culture, Puddle Dock Pond plans to host one artistic ice dancing performance per month, including a Currier & Ives-type show during one of the December weekends of Candlelight Stroll. Puddle Dock Pond will be in full operation, seven days a week, 9 am to 9 pm throughout December and on through New Year’s Day, and the months of January and February. Puddle Dock Pond offers 12,500 square feet of professionally maintained ice surface combining an 80’ x 125’ oval and a 60’ diameter circle all surrounded by a post and rail fence. A seasonal pavilion houses ticketing, skate rentals and concessions. The White Apron Cafe in the adjacent museum Tyco Visitor Center serves food and beverages. Puddle Dock Pond is open seven days a week, from 9 am to 9 pm, offering public skating (including several free sessions each week), pond hockey for children and adults, and skating lessons for all ages. Skate rentals and sharpening services are available
Pickwick’s at the Banke, complementing the museum with a shopping experience reflecting Portsmouth’s colonial maritime heritage. The new store is located at 43 Atkinson Street (on the corner of Court and Atkinson) on the museum campus, and is open to the general public. No museum ticket is required to shop at Pickwick’s at the Banke. Described as a ‘magical space’ featuring local art, artisans and products; Pickwick’s at the Banke is designed to be a nostalgic space that’s accessible to a new generation. Pickwick’s management has earned a following by creating “an experience” for their guests. The merchandise, the atmosphere and the hospitality of the staff make shopping more than a pastime. Like Strawbery Banke itself, Pickwick’s at the Banke is about preserving Portsmouth heritage, historical role-playing and participating in a sort of time travel through 300 years in this Puddle Dock neighborhood.
The White Apron Café will be offering food and beverages during Candlelight Stroll, both in the newly-redecorated space in the Tyco Visitor Center and in historic Pitt Tavern on the museum grounds.
Downtown stores and local malls get into the spirit of the season early by celebrating Small Business Saturday (following Black Friday) on November 29. Then, according to Valerie Rochon, Tourism Director for the Chamber, “The month of December is the perfect time to visit Portsmouth to sample all it has to offer – sales tax-free shopping at independent boutiques, visiting art galleries, dining at the numerous eclectic restaurants in town. And, our Shop Portsmouth retailers make it easy – by rolling out the red carpet, offering stress free shopping and entertainment by the Market Square Carolers. Rekindle the true spirit of the Holidays by shopping locally and enjoying a traditional downtown experience in our historic seaport during Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth!”
About the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce/For more information
Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce
500 Market Street, P.O. Box 239, Portsmouth, NH 03802
603.610.5510; fax: 603.436.5118
Hours: Monday-Friday 9-5:00pm
For further information about New Hampshire, visit the New Hampshire Division of Travel & Tourism website at http://www.visitnh.gov
Sponsored in part by a Joint Promotional Program grant through the New Hampshire Division of Travel & Tourism Development – www.visitnh.gov