2005 WINTER SEASON

Litchfield, CT --
Contact: Janet L. Serra
Ph: 800-663-1273
Email: lhcvbnwct@aol.com
For Immediate Release

Connecticut's little town of Bethlehem, a quaint village in the Litchfield Hills of Northwest Connecticut, has long been a favorite destination in December. Thousands of visitors arrive each year to mail their Christmas cards with a Bethlehem postmark, and to enjoy the annual Christmas Town Festival that officially starts the season. This year's festival will be especially gala, marking the 25th anniversary of the event. It will take place Friday night December 2 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday December 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. While enjoying the festivities, visitors also will be discovering a community with a distinguished religious history and two special holiday exhibits, a display of Christmas past and present at the historic Bellamy-Ferriday House and a most unusual Creche with figures in contemporary decor at the Abbey of Regina Laudis. Bethlehem's Town Green at the junction of Routes 61 and 132 is the heart of the festival. Things get under way on Friday night at 6 p.m. with a candlelight procession and a local tradition, a reenactment of Mary and Joseph's search for shelter. Santa himself will arrive to light the 75-foot tree on the green, and will remain on hand for pictures with young visitors throughout the festival. Seven buildings and churches around the green, all decorated in holiday finery will be filled with over 70 exhibitors offering a host of gift ideas, many of them original handcrafted items. Toys, dolls, trains, original ornaments, hand-dipped candles, hand-blown and painted glass, needlework, paintings, and baskets are among the offerings, along with cooking oils and herbs to please home chefs, dried and fresh greenery and wreath decorations, and homemade pies and sweets for the holiday table. The First Church Hand Bell Choir and the Waterbury-Derby Valley Chordsmen Chorus are among several groups that will fill the air with joyous holiday song and hayrides will add to the fun for families. Food will be available at stands manned by town organizations. Of course, everyone will want to bring cards to be mailed with a special Bethlehem postmark. More than 60 cachets are available, a special rubber stamp with a holiday design and lettering that says From the Little Town of Bethlehem, Christmas greetings. A special exhibit of Christmas past and present will be mounted during the festival at Bethlehem's historic Bellamy-Ferriday House, where the first theological seminary in the country was conducted by Joseph Bellamy, a pastor who resided in the house from 1739 to 1790. Among future leaders who studied there were Aaron Burr and Jonathan Edwards II. Another special feature this year is the unusual Lauren Ford Creche displayed in a barn on the grounds of the Abbey of Regina Laudis, open free to visitors daily through December from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The unusual Creche tells the nativity story using hand-made life-sized figures of the holy family created by Ms. Ford, attired in contemporary dress. Directions to the Creche are available in the Abbey gift shop. The Abbey's noted eighteenth century Neapolitan Creche is under restoration and will be open to the public once again for Christmas 2006. Parking for the festival is available at the Bethlehem Fairgrounds on Route 61, where shuttle buses will take visitors to the center of town. Parking, bus and admission to the festival are all free. For more information about Bethlehem and other Holiday Events and to receive a free copy of UNWIND, a 112-page color guide to lodging and dining and other historic sites and regional attractions in the Litchfield Hills contact the Northwest Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506 or check the Internet at www.litchfieldhills.com.