Main Street Reimagined
Somehow, Christmas, that most nostalgic of holidays, has become immersed in mid-20th century imagery, drawing on a time when life was more rural, more leisurely, when there was less traffic, and when materialism had yet to fasten its iron grip on the festivities.
Eminent illustrator Norman Rockwell engraved this imagery on the national consciousness in 1967 when—after a 10-year period of gestation—he completed Home for Christmas, a painting of Main Street in Stockbridge MA during the Yuletide season. When the painting was used for the December issue of McCall’s magazine that year, it quickly came to represent ‘Everytown, America’ at Christmastime.
The painting may represent small town America but Rockwell wanted the world to know that it was his hometown. It was a wish McCall’s accommodated by letting the reading public know that the artist was taking viewers on a Christmas Eve walk past the public library, the antiques and gift shops, the insurance office, the supermarket behind its Greek-revival façade, the barbershop, the old town office, the new town bank and on down to the rambling Red Lion Inn, beyond which is Rockwell’s own studio.
It was picture-perfect in 1967 and, amazingly, it is picture-perfect today, a fact the town celebrates annually when it recreates Rockwell’s image in real life, right down to the period car with a Christmas tree atop its roof. This year’s celebration has been altered somewhat to reflect the COVID crisis but the town is determinably carrying on its tradition.
“It’s very sad but necessary that we won’t have our volunteers and street performers,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Barbara Zanetti. “But our community is strong and we are pushing through and adapting.”
Zanetti said the Chamber picked a couple of events to present virtually and then drew on members who were already planning events for the first weekend in December. The house tour was diminished in size with only one building open this year. “We wanted to add a little extra touch, so there will be a Holiday Tree Walkway at the library,” Zanetti explained.
“The activities we are having in-person are outdoors, socially distanced and masked up,” she said. “We decided in May that, no matter what the situation might be in winter, it’s important for the Chamber to follow all the health guidelines.”
The recreated imagery is already coming to life. “I was just down there,” Zanetti said, “and the street was halfway done. Only one building hadn’t put up its lights yet.”
Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas will take place from December 4th through the 6th. Some attractions will continue through the holidays. In addition to replicating Rockwell’s iconic image and Holiday Walk, attractions will include:
A Holiday Concert, a video mix of Holiday Concerts Past, available online through December 31st; the Berkshire Botanical Garden’s Holiday Marketplace, December 4th-5th; a Story Walk at the Stockbridge Library, December 4th-6th; a Zoom reading from Dickens December 6th at 3PM Chamber of Commerce; and the Berkshire Theatre Group’s presentation of Holiday Memories, Truman Capote’s recollection of his childhood and friendship with his cousin, Sook, in depression-era Alabama. Bundle up—the staged reading will be outside. Performances continue through December 20th and reservations can be made by visiting BerkshireTheatreGroup.
In addition, Naumkeag’s beautiful garden will sparkle with thousands of holiday lights through January 2nd, 4:30-8:30PM. For more information and tickets go to thetrustees.org.
The Norman Rockwell Museum will get in on the act Thursday through Monday, 10AM-5PM, with its traditional recreation of a miniature Stockbridge village and toy trainset. Also on view will be the original of Rockwell’s Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas painting.
Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount, just across the town line in Lenox, will present Nightwood, a sound-and-light experience that transforms the winter landscape. A series of vignettes have been designed to evoke elements of fantasy, tradition and whimsy. The grounds are open Thursdays through Sundays until January 3rd, 5-8PM (closed December 24th and 25th). More information and tickets can be obtained at www.EdithWharton.org
Ventfort Hall, a Gilded Age Museum, is the only building on the house tour this year and will be open Thursday through Tuesday, 11AM-4PM (closed Wednesdays). The historic property will be all dressed up for the holidays and self-guided tours are by reservation at 11AM, 12:30 and 2PM. Reservations are taken by phone at 413-637-3206. For more information go to www.GildedAge.org.