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Holiday Candlelight Tour Washington Irving's Sunnyside

December 13, 2010 in American literature, Christmas Literary Traveler, Classic Writers, Historic Hudson Valley, Holidays Literary Traveler, Washington Irving

Courtesy of Historic Hudson ValleyAn evening candlelight tour at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside home in Tarrytown, NY seemed like the perfect way to kick off the holiday season.

Sunnyside is perched atop the Hudson River, allowing for striking views even on a cold December night.  Before the tour, I entered a converted barn where carolers in traditional costumes of the 1800s sang Christmas carols and explained their significance and origin between each song.

My tour group descended down a lantern-lit path to meet a costumed guide, who properly welcomed us to Sunnyside.  In each room, a costumed guide provided history and read an excerpt of Irving’s personal letters or writing.

The house was narrow, but festooned with evergreens, holly and lit candles.  However, I couldn’t find a Christmas tree.  As the guide explained, Christmas trees were a newer tradition in those days and many houses, such as Sunnyside, did not have them.  Irving loved Christmas so much that from his ambassador post in Spain, he would instruct his family to meticulously decorate Sunnyside.

Irving never married, instead sharing his home with his extended family.  His two nieces resided as the ladies of the house.  They tended to daily life, including Christmas dinner.  Dishes included breading pudding, mincemeat pie and turkey.  A holiday favorite was wassail, a hot punch of mulled cider, sugar, cinnamon and ginger.

In Irving’s study, a box of brightly-colored eraser-like objects seemed out of place.  In fact, they were ribbon candy, a common holiday treat in the 1800s.  In the living room, a costumed guide played piano and urged us to sing along to Silent Night and Jingle Bells.

Upon exiting Sunnyside, I drank hot apple cider.  I stood by the small bonfire.  I was finally ready for the Christmas season.

Note: Dress warmly, including hats and gloves, because you do walk outside.  Strollers cannot fit inside Sunnyside.  Children must walk or parents must carry them.

Christmas Articles from Literary Traveler:

The Real Story Behind Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Who Wrote ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. A Literary Debate

Christmas 2010 Literary Traveler

December 2, 2010 in A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, Christmas Literary Traveler, Historic Hudson Valley, Holidays Literary Traveler, Washington Irving

Illustration by John LeechIt’s the Christmas season at Literary Traveler.  I’m personally very excited because I’ll be attending the first Christmas fair of the year this Saturday.  I’m going to the Evening Candlelight Tour at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside the weekend of December 11th.  Of course, I’ll write a blog post about it, so stay tuned!

In addition, we have two culturally-enriching Christmas articles for you.  The first is an oldie (but a goodie) on Who Wrote ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas? A Literary Debate.  I actually wrote this article a few years ago, but it still resonates in my mind every time I hear the poem recited.  Is it a work of Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston Jr.?  Read to make your decision.

Our latest article is phenomenal.  Written by one of our best LT writers, Paul Millward, the article explores The Real Story Behind Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Did you know Scrooge is a representation of Dickens’ real father or that Dickens himself actually worked as a child laborer?  We promise you’ll never view A Christmas Carol in the same way again.

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Christmas, always remember during the holiday season, it’s best to explore your literary imagination …

~ Happy Holidays ~

Francis & Linda McGovern, Founders of LT

Jennifer Ciotta, Network Editorial Director

Washington Irving's Horseman's Hollow

November 1, 2010 in American literature, Classic Writers, Dark New England, Halloween, Historic Hudson Valley, Washington Irving

Courtesy of Historic Hudson ValleyI thought to myself, when was the last time I’ve been to a haunted house?  Not since I was a kid, for sure.  So I jumped at the chance to go to Horseman’s Hollow, a literary haunted event run by the Historic Hudson Valley.

Horseman’s Hollow follows the story of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on the lawn of the historic Philipsburg Manor in none other than the village of Sleepy Hollow, New York.

The event began with a candlelight walk down a dark path on the Manor grounds, which put me in the Halloween, haunted house mood, especially when I heard the screams of terrified guests from afar.

At the event, ghostly specters and bloody corpses interacted with guests.  Terrifying statues jumped out at unsuspecting visitors, startling even the bravest and eliciting screams.  A cannon erupted.  An ax-wielding Headless Horseman galloped by on his white horse–the first of three Headless Horseman that night (my favorite spectacle).

I met Ichabod Crane, who eerily welcomed visitors into his house.  I pushed through bean bag sacks, struggling to make my way through a haunted barn.  A ghostly face illuminated in midair, telling the story of the Headless Horseman.  And the Headless Horseman stomped his foot down, blocking my escape to the exit door.

Overall, Horseman’s Hollow keeps to the literary and historical aspect of Irving’s story.  The theater actors reveled in playing their characters, making the event realistic and scary.  It was a fun and creepy evening, perfect for autumn in the Hudson Valley.

A couple notes: There is a lot of walking (I was actually surprised by how much), especially from the parking lot and going through the event.  Wear comfortable shoes (do not wear heeled boots like I did.).  Also, it is pretty scary in certain parts, especially when characters jump out at you, so do not bring young children.

Our Dark New England theme continues with these great LT articles:

I am Providence: The City that Made H.P. Lovecraft

A Brief History of Edward Gorey’s Creepy Cape Cod

Shirley Jackson’s Outsider Perspective of Bennington, Vermont

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