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Let Cape May kindle your Christmas spirit

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The Emlen Physick Estate is one of the welcome stations on the trolley tour./MAC The Emlen Physick Estate is one of the welcome stations on the trolley tour./MAC

The Yule Blog, Dec. 5: 20 days until Christmas

I consider New York – with its iconic Rockettes, the ice-skating rink under the glow of the giant tree at Rockefeller Center, the flashy windows at Macy’s and FAO Schwarz – to be the ultimate Christmas city.

But the next best thing to being in Tinseltown for the holidays would have to be experiencing Christmas done the Victorian way in Cape May.

At the other end of the spectrum from the over-the-top spectacle, Cape May is Christmas lite. It is quiet carriage rides through streets lined with gas lamps; it is stately historic mansions and cozy gingerbread cottages decked out in tasteful holiday finery.

Carolers are part of the Cape May Christmas tradition./MAC Carolers are part of the Cape May Christmas tradition./MAC

Cape May is strolling carolers, quaint shops and barbershop singers. It’s candlelit homes opening their doors to the awe of visitors. It’s Father Christmas to New York’s Santa.

Cape May is a city one could imagine Dickens at home in – a city that could put even Ebenezer Scrooge in the holiday spirit.

Here, the Christmas season officially kicks off Friday, Dec. 7 with Cape May City’s annual tree lighting ceremony 7 p.m. at the Victorian Bandstand in Rotary Park.

The program includes caroling, a reading of the “The Night Before Christmas,” Old St. Nick greeting children, and a performance by the Cape Harmonaires Barbershop Singers. And of course, the city fathers and business representatives will be present for this night of yuletide cheer.

For information call the Department of Civic Affairs at 609-884-9565.

Free holiday concerts

Another way to get into the spirit of the season is the free holiday concert series at Cape May Convention Hall, 714 Beach Ave.

The Cumberland County College Jazz Band and Wind Symphony kicked off the series Dec.  4, but there are two holiday concerts yet to come.  

The Angelus Chorus returns to Cape May Convention Hall 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11 with a selection of traditional and contemporary music. The chorus was founded in 1964 by a small group of locals to sing Christmas carols for residents in the Angelus Convalescent Home in Wildwood, and it continues to perform throughout the area.

The Package Goods Orchestra will present a Cape May Community Holiday Concert with a message of peace, love and music 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14. The group’s unique arrangements and harmonies put a new shine on timeless music, incorporating a variety of sounds from acoustic guitar to electric ukulele, and from cocktail snare to full-bodied djembe, according to organizers.

For information about the free concert series call the city of Cape May at 609-884-9565

Candlelight House Tours

The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities, a not-for-profit organization committed to promoting the preservation, interpretation and cultural enrichment of the Cape May region for its residents and visitors, offers a number of holiday programs throughout the season. One of its most popular winter programs is the Christmas Candlelight House Tour, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

The Christmas Candlelight House Tours run 5:30-8:30 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 7, 14 and 28. The Christmas Candlelight House Tours run 5:30-8:30 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 7, 14 and 28.

Every year since 1974, more than a dozen Victorian inns, homes, churches and hotels decorated for the holidays open their doors and welcome visitors to share the warmth and hospitality of the season.

The tours are self-guided, and transport is provided from site to site on board a heated trolley shuttle, with stops at hospitality centers for warm beverages and holiday treats along the way.

The Christmas Candlelight House Tours run 5:30-8:30 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 7, 14 and 28.

Featured properties on the first tour include The Abbey at Columbia and Gurney streets; Beauclaire’s B&B Inn,  23 Ocean Street; The Bedford Inn, 805 Stockton Ave.; The Breakers, 24 Ocean Street; Congress Hall Hotel, 251 Beach Ave.; The Episcopal Church of the Advent, Franklin and Washington streets, Fairthorne Cottage, 115 Ocean St.; Franklin’s Key, 313 Franklin St.; The Henry Sawyer Inn, 722 Columbia Ave.; Hotel Macomber, 727 Beach Ave.; The Mason Cottage, 623 Columbia Ave.; The Mission Inn, 1117 New Jersey Ave.; The Primrose Inn, 1102 Lafayette St., The Summer Cottage Inn, 613 Columbia Ave.; and The Thomas Webster House, 933 Washington St.

The tour will feature Christmas carols by candlelight and strolling musicians along the streets.

Properties showcased on the Dec. 14 tour are The Albert Stevens Inn, 127 Myrtle Ave.; Beauclaire’s B&B Inn, 23 Ocean Street; The Bedford Inn, 805 Stockton Ave.; Cape Island Baptist Church, Columbia Avenue and Gurney Street; Congress Hall Hotel, 251 Beach Ave.; The Dormer House, 800 Columbia Ave.; Fairthorne Cottage, 115 Ocean St.; The George Ogden House, 737 Washington St.; Hotel Macomber, 727 Beach Ave.; The John Wesley Inn, 30 Gurney St.; The Mainstay Inn, 635 Columbia Ave.; The Mason Cottage, 623 Columbia Ave.; The Myers Residence, 1112 Washington St.; The Queen Victoria, 102 Ocean St.; The Summer Cottage Inn, 613 Columbia Ave.; The Thomas Webster House, 933 Washington St.; Victorian Lace Inn, 901 Stockton Ave.; and The Wilbraham Mansion, 133 Myrtle Ave.

Christmas Candlelight House Tours also include a visit to Cape May’s authentically decorated Victorian house museum, the Emlen Physick Estate at 1048 Washington St., and the exhibit “An Old-Fashioned Christmas: Holiday Traditions through the Years” in the Carriage House Gallery on the estate grounds.

The exhibit’s main attraction is a model Dickens village and display featuring vintage Christmas toys and memorabilia, all beneath the boughs of a giant Christmas tree.

MAC’s Christmas Candlelight House Tours include trolley transportation./MAC MAC’s Christmas Candlelight House Tours include trolley transportation./MAC

The Carriage House will also serve as a welcome center, along with the Episcopal Church of the Advent on Franklin and Washington streets. From 5:30-8:30 p.m., visitors can stop for a warm beverage and some home-baked treats of the season.

Admission to the Christmas Candlelight House Tour is $25 for adults and $20 for children 3 to 12. Reservations can be made in advance by calling 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278 or visiting www.capemaymac.org. 

Horse-drawn carriage rides

Cape May Carriage Company offers half-hour horse-drawn carriage tours 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily during the season, weather permitting. 

Carriages depart from the Washington Street Mall at Ocean Street. The price of a private carriage ride for two is $40, plus $12 for each additional adult and $6 for each additional child age 2-11.

For details, reservations or to confirm scheduling call 609-231-6613.

Homespun Holidays in the village

Just a short ride from the center of town is Historic Cold Spring Village, a restored early-American living history museum.

Cold Spring Village opens its Homespun Holidays season with Wassail Day 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, when the grounds come alive with the sounds and smells of wintertime.

Select buildings will be open where guests can enjoy hot beverages and treats served by historical interpreters in period clothing.

Father Christmas will be at the Historic Cold Spring Village Country Store Saturdays through Dec. 22. Father Christmas will be at the Historic Cold Spring Village Country Store Saturdays through Dec. 22.

On Wassail Day and Saturdays in December, visitors can meet Father Christmas in the Country Store from noon-2 p.m., check out a model railway exhibit in the Welcome Center 11 a.m.-3 p.m., and take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the festively decorated grounds.

Village admission is free on Wassail Day; a donation is requested for the carriage ride.

Holiday traditions continue each Saturday in December through the 21st.

The Country Store is open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 22. There, visitors can browse through an eclectic collection of heritage goods, traditionally-processed wool, artisan crafts for the home, jams and jellies, jewelry, hand-knit scarves and hats, books, vintage-style wood toys, old-fashioned candy and more.

The Village Welcome Center is also open 10 a.m.-4:30 a.m. Monday through Friday with free admission. Guests can enjoy Cape May County and maritime history exhibits, as well as an interactive virtual tour of HCSV.

Cold Spring Village is a 720 Route 9 South in Lower Township. For information call 609-898-2300 or see hcsv.com.

Cape May Artists Cooperative Gallery

The Cape May Artists Cooperative Gallery is a group of 20 local artists who have joined together to showcase and sell their work as well as educate the public about their art forms.

Their work is on display at their gallery in the West End Garage, 484 W. Perry St., where there will be a meet-the-artists reception 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8. For information call 609-770-8261 or see capeayartistcoop.com.

Photo of snow leopard cub by Lee Hajduk. Photo of snow leopard cub by Lee Hajduk.

Artists:

  • Catherine Bosna: painted scallop ornaments, graphic paintings, arrangements of wood and shells
  • Betty Campbell: hand-turned works in both local and exotic woods
  • Barbara Colosi: wire-wrapped jewelry and ornaments and decorations made from beach findings
  • Cindy Mahoney Crawford: sterling silver jewelry inspired by nature
  • Diana Cutshall: seed bead art jewelry
  • Rob Dentino: creations from beach finds
  • Eliza Dietz: necklaces, bracelets and earrings made from glass beads, stones and seeds.
  • Phil Dietz: pearl jewelry
  • Dennis Dowe: hand-sculpted candles.
  • Joe Evangelista: photographs of the Cape May area
  • Lori Erdley: mosaic art
  • Diane Flanegan: stained and fused glass boxes, bowls, jewelry and window hangings
  • Rich Flanegan: paintings and prints of local landscapes
  • Lee Hajduk: wildlife photographs
  • Carol Hiemenz: still-lifes and landscapes in oil
  • Patricia Neville: hand-painted Santas created from oyster shells and paintings of local flora and fauna
  • Christine Peck: landscape photography
  • Linda Pendrak: pastel paintings of vignettes of everyday life 
  • Donna and Wayne Rowe: handmade tile inspired by nature
  • Mary Stewart: works in fiber, including purses, hats, scarves and mittens

 

Wood ornaments by Catherine Bosna. Wood ornaments by Catherine Bosna.

The Yule Blog is a day-to-day countdown to Christmas featuring a new story each day. Click the links below to read other stories in the series.

Nov. 29: Best shopping apps put you where the buys are

Nov. 30: Small Business Saturday gives independent shops their turn to shine.

Dec. 1: Before there was 'Elf,' there was 'The Santaland Diaries.'

Dec. 2: Historic Smithville has plenty of old-fashioned Christmas spirit to go around

Dec. 3: Earth-friendly gifts help preserve the world's green assets

Dec. 4: Great gift ideas for the cook

Dec. 5: Let Cape May kindle your Christmas spirit

Dec. 6: The worst and the weirdest Christmas films

Dec. 7: How to take the perfect holiday portrait

Dec. 8: Will South Jersey have a white Christmas in 2013?


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