Christmas at Norlands reflects simpler time

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LIVERMORE — At the Norlands Living History Center on Saturday there were no bright red and green baubles, colorful lights or golden garland, but Christmas was very much in the air.

The lack of lavish decorations, reflecting a simpler time at the annual Christmas at Norlands event, was noticed by guests. It wasn’t until 1870, the year portrayed at the center, that President Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas a legal holiday.

Inside the Washburn mansion, fires blazed in cast-iron wood stoves and the scents of decadent delicacies wafted through the crowded halls.

A Christmas tree in the dining room was hung with simple, homemade gifts, a tradition of the time.

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Guests could participate in the cookie walk in the farmer’s cottage or listen to stories about the original inhabitants of the house, the Washburn family, from “Martha Washburn Stephenson,” the eldest daughter, portrayed by Willi Irish, director of interpretation at the center.

In the kitchen a boiled dinner bubbled merrily, tended by Faith Dexter, 17, of Leeds, and Maddie Gray, 14, of Lewiston, who planned to go caroling along the grounds with their brothers after dinner. Dexter is a historical interpreter at the center, and Gray volunteers.

“I heard caroling was involved, so I was sold,” Gray said. “And I love history.” 

Jim and Sam, the center’s draft horses, were pulling guests in wagons outside the barn, which Director Sheri Leahan said they’ve made “a lot of progress” on rebuilding, since a fire in 2008 destroyed it. Inside the new barn are two pigs, Porkchop and Sausage, that many guests, including Aubrey Briggs, 7, of Sabattus, were “really excited about.”

Briggs’ mother, Brittany Willard, said they also came for the arts and crafts, and because it was “something new.”

Heidi Richardson of Auburn, who brought her whole family, including children, parents, and cousins, said she came for the experience, and because her daughter loves Christmas.

“We saw it on Facebook and had to come,” Richardson said. “We’ve been (to the center) before, but never at Christmas.” 

All proceeds from the event will benefit the center, which is undergoing renovations, including a new ice house that will store blocks of ice harvested from nearby Bartlett Pond.

emarquis@sunmediagroup.net

Faith Dexter, 17, of Leeds, lifts the lid on a boiled dinner simmering on the wood stove during the annual Christmas at Norlands event at the Norlands Living History Center in Livermore on Saturday. (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal)

Faith Dexter, 17, of Leeds, left, and Maddie Gray, 14, of Lewiston worked in the kitchen and went caroling at the Christmas at Norlands event Saturday at the Norlands Living History Center in Livermore. (Liz Marquis, Sun Journal)

Jim and Sam, the two draft horses of the Norlands Living History Center, gave wagon rides on Saturday during the annual Christmas at Norlands event in Livermore. (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal)

Carolyn Lawson, far left, president of the board of trustees for the Norlands Living History Center in Livermore, greeted guests and gave history lessons, portraying the character of Caroline Washburn, at the annual Christmas at Norlands event on Saturday. (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal)

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