2007 WINTER

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

It happens every year. When the holiday season starts, the procession begins to Connecticut's little town of Bethlehem, a quaint, quiet village in the Litchfield Hills. Thousands arrive here each year to mail Christmas cards adorned with the very special Bethlehem postmark and with the unique hand stamp designs known as a cachet.

The ideal time to visit is during the 27th annual Christmas Town Festival, which takes place this year on the village green on Friday night December 7th and Saturday December 8th.

The quaint buildings and churches surrounding the Green will be decorated and will be brimming with holiday crafters, music, and delicious food. Part of the fun will be voting for the winner among the displays of entries in the town's annual tree decorating contest. This year's festival will have an Early American theme, with authentically costumed volunteers and appropriate props throughout the area.

Besides the unique crafts for sale at the festival, visitors can find original gifts at the Monastic Art Shop at Bethlehem's Abbey of Regina Laudis. The choices include pottery, candles, woven and knitted goods, wool from the abbey's own sheep, iron work hand-forged at the Abbey Blacksmith Shop and leather goods including handbags handmade at the Abbey from the tanned hides of cattle from the Abbey herds.

Once again this year an ornament-making workshop will take place during the festival at Bethlehem's historic 1734 Bellamy-Ferriday House and Garden, where an exhibit of holiday traditions past and present will fill the home.

THE BETHLEHEM POSTMARK

The tradition of bringing cards ready to be stamped with the Christmas cachets available in the lobby of the Bethlehem Post Office is long established. Besides those who visit in person, in a typical holiday season bundles of addressed and stamped Christmas cards arrive daily from all 50 states and a dozen countries addressed to the Bethlehem postmaster, with a request that they be decorated with a cachet design and a Bethlehem postmark.

The idea began in 1938 when a local Postmaster, the late Earl Johnson, realized that people were coming to town just to get the Bethlehem postmark. Johnson designed the first cachet, a special rubber stamp with a tree and lettering that said "From the Little Town of Bethlehem, Christmas Greetings." Each year since, new cachets have been added, created by area artists and local residents and children. More than 70 are now available. Extended hours and a seven-day workweek go into effect at the post office during the holiday season to accommodate the demand. Hours starting December 3 Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday 11:30a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Post Office will stay open until 8 p.m. on the Friday night of the festival.

FESTIVAL FUN

The opening ceremony of the Christmas Town Festival, on Friday night December 7th at 6:00 pm, will feature a candlelight procession including a reenactment of Mary and Joseph looking for shelter. Regional choirs and bands will provide festive background music. Then Santa will arrive to light the 75-foot tree in the center of the Green. The good man will set up headquarters at the town's little schoolhouse, where children can visit and have pictures taken throughout the Festival. Hayrides and holiday music also will continue on Saturday. The First Church Hand Bell Choir and the Waterbury-Derby Valley Chordsmen Chorus will be among the performers.

Seven buildings in Town will be open, with over 70 exhibitors selling handcrafted items. Children?s toys, dolls, trains, clothing, Christmas decorations and ornaments, candles, painted glassware, needlework, paintings, baskets and jewelry are among the offerings, along with dried and fresh arrangements and wreaths, homemade candies, jams and pies, cooking oils and herbs. Collectors can garner the annual pewter Christmas Town ornament. The Bethlehem Christmas Town festival takes place on Friday night from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free parking is available at the Bethlehem Fairgrounds on Route 61, where free shuttle buses wait to take visitors to the village green. For further information, phone 203-266-5557.

For more information about holiday events and a free copy of UNWIND, a 112-page color guide to lodging, dining and all the attractions in the Litchfield Hills write to the Northwest Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, call (860) 567-4506 or check the Internet at www.litchfieldhills.com.