King’s Landing Historical Settlement is preparing for Christmas in the Valley, an event that will open the village to visitors for the first two weekends of December. For this seasonal event, the village is recreating many holiday traditions celebrated by loyalist families in 19th-century New Brunswick.
“It’s a lot about decorating and baking. They liked to give cards as well,” said Jenna Fitch, a St. Thomas University graduate and acting communications and marketing specialist at the village.
Fitch said making ornaments in preparation for the holiday would’ve been one of the traditions. These included paper and popcorn chains, pomander balls and Victorian kissing balls, a ball made of mistletoe. Most decorations at King’s Landing are made in the village.
Perhaps the most iconic decor of the holiday, the Christmas tree, wouldn’t originally be in some of the older homes in the village.
“A tradition that came up more towards the end of the 1800s would have been the Christmas tree. [In the] early 1830s or so, they might not have had them, but Queen Victoria popularized them, so towards the end of the 1800s people would have had Christmas trees in their homes with decorations,” said Fitch.
Visitors will be able to see a 19th-century tree in the Morehouse House, and children will be able to make ornaments for the tree.
Wreaths are one of the decorations that will not be hung in the village.
“In Victorian times, wreaths often symbolized mourning, that someone had a death in the family,” said Fitch.
Instead of wreaths, the village is decorated with swags, evergreen branches attached with ribbon.
Fitch said baking was a central part of the holidays. Visitors can expect to see, smell and maybe even try historical staples such as sugar plums, gingerbread, plum pudding and mincemeat.
In the 19th-century, friends and family were an important part of the holiday. They may have gathered for carolling or shared a drink during a custom known as Wassailing.
Sharing gifts wasn’t a focus during the holiday.
“Gift-giving was usually smaller, definitely not as extravagant as today,” said Fitch. “A lot of times, it may just have been a little stocking with some treats inside or little toys.”
Visitors can expect a slice of these Christmas traditions at King’s Landing’s Christmas in the Valley. The event focuses on the 1850s and 60s. Each home will be themed around a traditional Christmas carol, such as I Saw Three Ships and O Holy Night.
“We’re leaning into that more this year,” said Fitch. “Last year, a couple of the houses were based off carols, but they’re a little more intense this year.”