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Webster Goes A-Wassailing in West Hartford

Tom Hooker Hanford. Submitted photo

The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society is offering a new Victorian holiday dinner.

Tom Hooker Hanford. Submitted photo

Tom Hooker Hanford. Submitted photo


The NoahWebsterHouse & West Hartford Historical Society will host a new holiday dinner this December featuring traditional recipes. Come taste curious early American delicacies, signature festive drinks, and traditional holiday fare!

The event will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, with the opportunity to taste foods you have only heard about.

Chestnuts roasted over an open fire, figgy pudding, wassail … the museum will be serving up a three-course feast with historic holiday foods that, while appearing prominently in carols, do not ordinarily make it to today’s dinner table.

While enjoying a Dickens-style meal, guests will be regaled by musician Tom Hooker Hanford. Dressed in Victorian costume and accompanying his singing with parlor guitar and violin, Hanford will explore 19th-century American Christmas and it’s evolution from the raucous celebration of New York City Callithumpians, African-American John Canoe Revelers, and French Missouri mummers to a more family-oriented Christmas similar to today’s holiday. Highlights include “Rise Up, Shepherd,””I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day,” “Up On the Housetop” (possibly the first song about Santa Claus), and the story of “Jingle Bells.”

Holiday celebrations were wildly unpopular among Puritan New Englanders until the mid-1800s. Noah Webster did not differentiate Christmas day from any other day, as it was known as a “popish” holiday by Congregationalists.

In time, Christmas celebrations became known as community events signifying peace and encouraging goodwill to all. Reformers throughout Connecticut packed Christmas baskets for those in need, stocked with necessities and treats alike. Merry-making, caroling, and a-wassailing were popular ways to spread cheer.

Tickets for this unique event, which includes a three-course dinner, beer and wine, and entertainment are $50 for non-members and $45 for members. Pre-registration is required as space is limited. A valid ID is required and must be presented for alcoholic drinks. Please call Sophie Huget at (860) 521-5362 x 15 with questions about dietary restrictions.

Visit noahwebster.yapsody.com for more information or to purchase your tickets.

The museum would like to thank the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and the Greater Hartford Arts Council for their continued support.

The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society is a cultural destination where citizens can learn to understand and appreciate the past. The museum preserves the birthplace of Noah Webster, the founding father, educator, author, and lexicographer who taught generations of Americans what it means to be American. This National Historic Landmark is also a repository for West Hartford history, the community that molded Noah Webster’s future and is still thriving over 250 years later. The historic house and exhibit spaces are open daily 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. For information on the museum’s extensive school and public programs, please visit www.noahwebsterhouse.org or call 860-521-5362.

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