The Hippo


Apr 20, 2019








Take a holiday stroll. Photo by David J Murray.

37th annual Candlelight Stroll

When: Friday, Dec. 16, and Saturday, Dec. 17, 5 to 9 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 18, 4 to 8 p.m.
Where: Strawbery Banke Museum, 14 Hancock St., Portsmouth
Cost: $25 for adults, $12.50 for children ages 5 to 17, free for children for under 5. Maximum cost of $60 per family of two adults and two children ages 5 to 17. (Additional costs apply for some activities. Only handicapped parking is available at the museum; visitors should utilize public parking areas and the free vintage Christmas trolley provided by the City of Portsmouth.)

Walking back in time
Candlelight Stroll returns to Strawbery Banke

By Matt Ingersoll

 Relive history while celebrating the holidays at the 37th annual Candlelight Stroll on the grounds of the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, which features hundreds of lighted candles and thousands of handmade crafts on display, as well as a variety of carolers, costumed role-players and more.

The final weekend of the Stroll will take place on Friday, Dec. 16, and Saturday, Dec. 17, from 5 to 9 p.m., and on Sunday, Dec. 18, from 4 to 8 p.m.
“We try to make [the Stroll] a holiday experience that isn’t commercial and doesn’t feel contrived … and the traditions run the entire gamut from before Americans even celebrated Christmas,” said Alena Shellenbean, manager of volunteers and special events at Strawbery Banke.
This year’s Stroll will incorporate the museum’s “Port of Portsmouth” exhibit, which opened on July 1 and showcases the Seacoast’s maritime history. Shellenbean said the new exhibit runs parallel with this year’s Stroll theme, “Gifts from the Sea,” which will be displayed all throughout the 38 buildings on Strawbery Banke’s campus during the Stroll. The theme highlights how the ocean has served as a vital source of food, transportation and communication to city residents over the years.
“The theme runs across all of our historic houses, which we are calling ‘story houses,’ and they all have scenes going on inside of them,” Shellenbean said. “Most of the houses were built in the early days of this country, in the early part of the 18th century in some cases, but [the scenes] will display specific time periods.”
Strollers who visit the various buildings lit up during the event will encounter dozens of costumed role-players and carolers who each play a figure at a different time in history, going back as far as the 1690s, when the earliest buildings of what is now the museum were built.
“As well as to help people get into the spirit of the holidays for the Stroll, the museum is a place where we try to be really authentic and present history in everything we do,” Shellenbean said. “Some of the houses [at Strawbery Banke] were built during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War but have been lived in up until the 1950s … so we don’t represent a single time period, but the range in times that we show is from about 1690 all the way up to then.”
In the Shapiro House, for example, which was built in 1720, you can visit the Shapiro family celebrating the seventh night of their Hanukkah tradition in the year 1919 by eating traditional foods and playing games.
Other houses extend the Stroll’s “Gifts from the Sea” theme beyond the Port of Portsmouth exhibit. Visit the Goodwin House to listen to stories of Mr. Goodwin sailing ships in 1870 and making gifts, ornaments and more from the seashells the family collected.
Join the Rider-Wood family at their house in celebrating the arrival of their sister after a long journey at sea from England in 1845.
The Shapley-Drisco House will display scenes from two different time periods in different rooms. In 1795, join Mrs. Shapley and her daughters as they look at prints from Paris and try to agree on new gowns. And in 1955, visit Mrs. Day as she makes seafood chowder for dinner for her children.
“They are related in that it’s all about Portsmouth history, and the river and the sea has so much to do with that — hence the theme,” Shellenbean said.
Other highlights during the Stroll include the Labrie Family Skate at the museum’s Puddle Dock Pond. (In addition to being open during the Stroll’s hours, the rink will also be operating seven days a week throughout December, January and February, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., including New Year’s Day.)
Take a horse-drawn carriage ride that departs from beside the Lowd House and travels down brightly lit streets for about 15 minutes.
For the younger crowd, there will be chances to win a prize during the Candlelight Kids Treasure Hunt. Guides for what you need to complete the Hunt can be picked up at the museum’s entrance and dropped off at the visitors center.
Craft demonstrations will also be held at several locations around the museum during the Stroll, including fiber weaving, wreath-making, woodworking, and lantern- and ornament-making. You can also visit the Figtree Kitchen Cafe for seasonal snacks.
The Candlelight Stroll is one of the signature events of the Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth, which extends beyond Strawbery Banke and includes other features like the 26th annual gingerbread house contest exhibition at the Portsmouth Historical Society, and the Family Holiday Pops at The Music Hall, presented by the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra.
“Portsmouth definitely has a reputation for being a great Christmas spot with events like the Stroll and all the other things going on in the area,” Shellenbean said. 

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