To get into the proper holiday spirit early, the place to be the first weekend in December is the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut.
Festivals galore start the season right in this region that is always as pretty as a Christmas card, and there are numerous opportunities to check off your holiday shopping list in scenic settings. The only dilemma is where to go first.
One good place to start is Connecticut’s own little town of Bethlehem, a quaint, village that is transformed each December, when it becomes New England’s favorite Christmas Town.
Thousands of visitors arrive to mail their Christmas cards with a Bethlehem postmark and to enjoy the 30th annual gala Christmas Town Festival, set this year for Friday night December 7 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a tree lighting at 6 p.m. and Saturday, December 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. The town green is transformed for the occasion with some 70 vendors offering crafts and good food. Bring the family for musical entertainment, hayrides and the chance for a photo with Santa. Find the complete schedule at www.christmastownfestival.com
Bethlehem’s historic Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden will be festively decorated for the weekend, with themed decorations in each of the first floor rooms. Children will enjoy games, prizes and surprises and refreshments in the Visitor's Center. This house will be open during festival hours, December 7 and 8 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For details, phone (203) 266-7596. For details, phone (203) 266-7596 or visit www.ctlandmarks.org
Bethlehem also offers the chance to visit a rare museum-quality 18th century Neapolitan Crèche housed in a barn at the Abbey of Regina Laudis. Check the hours at abbeyofreginalaudis.com
The Bethlehem Post Office is also offering extended hours. Bring your holiday cards and stamp them with a special cache. There are 76 stamp designs to choose from as one new design is added each year. The post office will be open with extended hours for the festival. The post office is open on Fri. Dec. 7 from 8 am to 8 pm; on Sat, December 8, 15, & 22 from 8 am to 3 pm and Mon.- Fri. 8 am to 5 pm the month of December.
For area information on where to stay, shop and dine, please visit www.litchfieldhills.com.