Christmas in Zoar
All is Calm, All is Bright
By Lori J. Feeney
Each year, just before Historic Zoar Village settles in for a brief winter’s nap, they host a weekend so popular it has attracted visitors for years. It’s called Christmas in Zoar, and it is as charming and beautiful a holiday event as you will find anywhere.
Located just about 10 miles south of Canton, Historic Zoar Village was settled in 1817 by German immigrants seeking religious freedom from the state-sponsored church in Württemberg.
After struggling to survive the first two years, the residents banded together to form a communal society that became one of the longest lasting such settlements in the United States, spanning nearly 80 years.
Ironically, the Society of Separatists (as the Zoar settlers called themselves) did not originally celebrate Christmas or any other holiday. Their particular brand of religion eschewed such formal religious celebrations and rites. But anecdotal history tells the tale of a frosty Christmas morning when the Separatists were about to be called to work, as they were every day, with the blare of a ceramic horn.
Just as the trustee wrapped his lips around the mouthpiece and blew, the horn cracked and broke. The Separatists took this as a sign that they should no longer work on Christmas Day.
The cracked ceramic horn is on display, along with many other Zoar artifacts, in the Number One House, one of several museums that can be toured during Christmas in Zoar as part of the festival ticket.
Ranked one of the top 25 most festive Christmas towns in America
Because of Christmas in Zoar, RAVE Reviews online ranks Historic Zoar Village among the 25 most festive Christmas towns in the nation, placing Zoar in the esteemed company of cities like Willliamsburg, Virginia; New York City, New York; and Aspen, Colorado.
Among the reasons for that ranking, the web site mentions the picturesque 19th century-era decorations, horse-drawn wagon rides through the village, tours of private homes decorated for the holidays, and the candlelight church service at the original Zoar Meeting House, now a United Church of Christ.
Kelsey Snyder, Christmas in Zoar Committee Co-Chair, offers additional insight into the beloved annual event. “The 2019 celebration will build upon the festival’s most treasured German and period traditions while trending toward the next generation of the event.” For instance, this year musical entertainment, juried folk art and crafts, German-inspired food and other activities will spread holiday cheer more thoroughly throughout the entire village. A new photo station will allow visitors to take photos in front of a special Zoar backdrop. And extended hours on Saturday until 7 pm will give visitors time to shop for gifts and stroll through the village in the evening amidst the glow of holiday lights.
“Pine Cone Gift Shop from Canton will return this year to decorate the Bimeler House,” says Snyder. “They did such an amazing job with this last year that we are bringing them back to see what they will inspire us with this year.”
Visits with traditional and German Santas
Christmas in Zoar is a delight for children as they can visit with the traditional American Santa Claus and meet the characters Belsnickel and Kristkind. Belsnickel is a German, fur-clad gift bringer who encouraged children to memorize Bible verses. Kristkind (or Christkind) is a sprite-like child often depicted with blond hair and angelic wings that also brings gifts to children. Children attending Christmas in Zoar can meet these characters and partake in other kids’ activities throughout the village.
Each year, Christmas in Zoar attracts visitors who have been attending the event for years. They come to make sure they get their collectible, handmade and dated Zoar Christmas ornament and Zoar Christmas cards from the Zoar Store. They also come to find just the right handmade gifts from the folk art and craft vendors set up throughout the village. And they return to make new memories with friends and family in the enchanting environment.
Historic Zoar Village Site Director Tammi Shrum says that Zoar is always a special place, “but the holiday season seems to really bring out the magic of the village as everyone here participates in spreading holiday cheer.”
Hours and ticket information
Christmas in Zoar hours are Saturday, December 7 from 11 am to 7 pm and Sunday, December 8 from noon to 4 pm. Admission is $10 for adults and free for kids under age 12. The village also will offer special Christmas tours this year throughout the season for groups of 10 or more, so those who can’t attend the Christmas in Zoar festival can still take in the magic and beauty of the village during the holidays.
For additional information, call 800-262-6195, check the website www.historiczoarvillage.com, or visit facebook.com/historiczoarvillage.
Christmas in Zoar