My Suitcase Subscribe Now for Insider Info

Real-life Ghost of Christmas Past

Discover Boston's Holiday History on the Freedom Trail's Holiday Stroll

Everyone knows that Boston is the cradle of the American Revolution. But during the holiday season, the Freedom Trail’s annual Holiday Stroll explores Boston’s less well-known Christmas history. “Boston has so much history that people take for granted,” says Creative Director Sam Jones. “In the nineteenth century, Boston was the center of artistic opinion, and that brought out the best of the city. That history is right under people’s noses, so we want to highlight that and celebrate the holiday in a new and interesting way.”

Holiday Stroll offers a unique perspective on the origins of favorite holiday traditions. “We expand the scope to encompass the entire history of Christmas in Boston,” Jones says. “Christmas wasn’t widely celebrated during the eighteenth century. Most people were Congregational, meaning that they had a Puritan background. Christmas was seen as an Anglican tradition with pagan associations.”

It was during the nineteenth century that more recognizable Christmas celebrations began to take shape, and The Freedom Trail delves into this intriguing history. “Charles Dickens was closely associated with Boston,” Jones explains. “Boston was the center of the literary world in the nineteenth century. People like Thoreau, Emerson, and Longfellow all gathered in Boston. These were the circles that Dickens traveled in.”

Americans have Boston to thank for the ubiquity of A Christmas Carol in today’s holiday celebrations. “Dickens actually wrote a one-man play version of A Christmas Carol. He would perform it himself and he had different voices for all the characters. He traveled all over the country giving performances and he made tens of thousands of dollars doing this. The first performance was in Boston.”

Apparently, Dickens never left Boston. “When it’s available, we like to bring groups up to the room in the Parker House Hotel where Dickens stayed,” Jones says. “There’s a big mirror up there that Dickens haunts. Actors say that you aren’t supposed to practice in front of a mirror, but that’s what Dickens did—he would practice his reading of A Christmas Carol in front of that mirror. He still haunts it to this day.”

Although Dickens is a giant of Boston’s holiday history, the Freedom Trail explores the scope of the city’s Christmas traditions. “We stop at the different Christmas trees and talk about that history,” says Jones. “Boston’s tree, for example, is still donated by the people of Nova Scotia every year because of Boston’s quick response to the 1917 Halifax explosion.”

The tour’s broad scope presents a unique challenge for the Freedom Trail’s dedicated staff and talented guides. “The costuming can be a challenge,” says Jones. “We’re jumping a century, so we need to pay attention to that. It’s little things, like knowing how to wear the clothing, knowing where a hat should sit on your head, how the tie should look. We seek out the best colonial clothiers—they prefer the name ‘clothier’ because they make clothes, not costumes.”

Although a departure from the Freedom Trail’s normal focus, Holiday Stroll is an essential part of the foundation’s overall mission. “The people had passionate convictions,” Jones says. “They were passionate about learning and science. There really was a cult of learning here, and I think that learning and revolution go hand in hand. People today always talk about how they want to emulate the founders, but that’s not a part of it that gets talked about as much—the way that these men and women were passionate about learning. It really was a scholar revolution, and Boston was the heart of it.”

By Ettractions Digital Content Editor, EMILY JARMOLOWICZ

Recommended Fun!

FUN IDEAS & TRAVEL TIPS

Nauticon is Not Your Average Con Town Spotlight: Bourne Town Spotlight: Nantucket Town Spotlight: Mashpee Town Spotlight: Provincetown
Town Spotlight: Orleans Town Spotlight: Yarmouth Go Shopping at the HyArts Artist Shanties The Viking 200 Cardboard Boat Challenge Cape Cod Restaurant Week Beekeeping Keeps Cape Cod Sweet Celebrate Spring with Nantucket's Daffodil Festival 12,000 Years of Wampanoag History Five Sweet Spots on Route 6A 5 Spots for Shopping Along Route 6A A Cabinet of Wonders: Inside the Edward Gorey House Sharks: Cape Cod's Other Summer Visitors Romantic Spots in Falmouth Gods & Goddesses at the Provincetown Carnival Cape Cod’s Hydrangeas Yappy Hour at Cape Cod Beer Sweet Caroline's Ice Cream Is So Good The Ultimate Guide to Cape Cod Summer Theater A 90-Year Recipe for Saltwater Taffy Cape Cod Donut Shop Gets Creative A Festival for the Dogs on Cape Cod Spend a Day at the Ballgame A Dog’s Day on the Cape in Eastham Let them Eat Cake 4 Breakfast How to Run a Cape Cod Marathon What Makes Great Mini-Golf? Five Family-Friendly Stops along Route 6A Bowling and Games at Ryan's Amusements Hidden Hollow and Family Fun Fridays at Heritage Family Fun at Wackenhammer's Shipwreck! Navy Submarine, S-19 Runs Aground on Nauset Bar in Eastham Shipwreck! Stockholm sinks Andrea Doria off Chatham Shipwreck! The Competitor Cape Cod Houses The Cape Cod Canal Mooncussers of Cape Cod What's Your Cape Cod IQ? Shipwreck! The Argo Merchant Six Fun History Stops on Cape Cod Glimpse the Nineteenth Century at Pairpoint Glass Four Tips for First-Time Birders Six Spots for Spectacular Cape Cod Birding P-Town Dune Shack Applications Available Gardens Aglow Lights up Cape Cod for the Holidays Four places to catch a ferry to the islands Head to Woods Hole for a Day of Ocean Discovery Writers on the Nature of Cape Cod Five Fun Things to do in October on Cape Cod Cranberries & Blueberries: Berry Interesting Cape Cod Shines September Festivals: Come Celebrate Cape Cod Lobster Roll Luncheons A Day at Hyannis Harbor: Summertime at the Artist Shanties Fishing for Flounder with Captain Chip Chatham goes "Back to the Future" in June Veg Out (and More) at One of Cape Cod's Farmers Markets An afternoon in South Yarmouth: Mini golf, ice cream & more Five Reasons to Add a Melody Tent Show to Your Cape Cod Vacation Itinerary Cape Cod Shipwreck: Elsie G. Silva In a Jam in Sandwich: Strawberry, Cranberry Apricot & More Paint the Cape green: Three ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day Walk in the footsteps of the Kennedys on Cape Cod Go green in Yarmouth at the Cape Cod St. Pat's Parade Siobhan Magnus to sing like a Brit in Yarmouth Local & luscious: Three Cod Cod-inspired Valentine's Day treats Brewing up knowledge--an evening out at a local "on tap" event Five fun things to do with the kids during February school vacation Digging for delights--Cape Cod clamming Three unique spots to catch a flick on Cape Cod Nantucket makes Nat Geo's best fall trips list Sunbathe, Swim & Explore: Sixteen Beaches in Dennis Swim, Surf & Sunbathe: Nine Beautiful Beaches in Barnstable Eleven Heavenly Beaches in Harwich The Shores of Falmouth: Nine Beautiful Beaches to Explore Dive into Bourne with a Visit to These Six Beaches If You Hear The Chatham Band Playing, That Means It's Friday Make Jam and Meet Peter Rabbit at the Green Briar Nature Center in East Sandwich 23 Top Fresh Water Swimming Spots on Cape Cod Four Fantastic Beaches to Explore in Sandwich Explore Music, Theater, Film & More at Cotuit Center For the Arts Take a dip at Mashpee's South Cape Beach Dining With Dad: Four Cape Restaurants for Father's Day Guided Kayak Tours: A Great Way to See Cape Cod Seafood Dinner: Three Essential Condiments for Your Cupboard Chatham Railroad Museum is a Treat for Train Lovers of All Ages Three Tips for Skipping Memorial Day Weekend Traffic on Cape Cod Sip the Cape's Newest Small Craft Beer from Devil's Purse Brewing Gray Gables and Bourne's Connection to President Grover Cleveland Love Butterflies? Check Out Butterflies of Cape Cod in Bourne Scargo Tower Offers A Stunning View of Cape Cod Seven Ways to Enjoy Seafood on Cape Cod Five Tips for Hiking Cape Cod Trails Beach Stickers: A Must Have for Summer Vacation Fun Packing for a Day at the Shore: What's In Your Beach Bag? Taste Your Way Through Cape Cod: Eleven Awesome Ice Cream Shops Pets Welcome: Five Places to Stay with Your Furry Friend The Herring Are Running, The Herring Are Running! Daffodil Alert: Spring Has Sprung on Cape Cod Scuba Diving to Stand Up Paddleboarding The Great Fried Clam Roll Debate: Strips or Whole-Belly Cape Cod Vacation Must: Tantalizing Treats from the Raw Bar Three Tips for a Green Cape Cod Vacation A New Way to Explore: Rock Hunting on Cape Cod An Early Morning Walk--Cape Cod All to Yourself Ten Reasons Cape Cod is THE Destination for Your Next Vacation Kids: Catch Some Air at a Cape Cod Skatepark Grab Your Binoculars--It's Time to Go Birdwatching on Cape Cod Cape Cod Beachcombing: A Dozen Sea Shells You Will Surely Find The Delicate Art of Glass Blowing: Six Cape Cod Studios & a Museum to Visit Bowling, Burgers & Brew--the Lanes in Mashpee has it all All Things Aquatic: Five Cool Cape Cod Aquariums The Brazilian Grill in Hyannis: Not Just For Meat-Lovers Seven Sure Ways to Make Your Cape Cod Valentine's Day Romantic Brilliant Beacons: Take a Tour of the Cape's Many Lighthouses Brrr....Warm Up on Cape Cod with a Spicy Burrito Nine Cape Cod Courses Perfect "Fore" a Round of Golf Celebrate Cape Cod: Buy Fresh, Buy Local Say Cheese: Five Places to Take the Perfect Cape Cod Picture Go Back in Time at These Five Historic Cape Cod Homes Thick & Creamy, Loaded with Clams, How Do You Like Your Chowder? Stand-Up Paddleboarding--a Fun Way to Hit the Waves Farmer for a Day: Seven Cape Cod Farms You Won't Want to Miss Seven Fun Ways to Spend a Rainy Cape Cod Day A Touch Tank Teeming with Cool Sea Creatures Mid & Lower Cape Dining: Ten Top Take-Out Places on Cape Cod Eight Cape Cod Eateries Offering a Twist on Traditional Seafood Arts & Artists: A Dozen Galleries to Visit on Cape Cod Eight Types of Tours That Will Make Your Cape Cod Vacation A Very Broadway Christmas November 2017 Fun in New York City November 2017 Fun in Boston October 2017 Fun in New York City October 2017 Fun in Boston September 2017 Fun in Boston Based on a True Story Top Five Kid-Friendly Stops in Boston Top Five Sweet Stops in New York City Escape to Boston's Islands Seriously Adventurous Mini Golf An Unexpected Culture Break at the MAD Museum Boston's Very Own Oasis The Ocean's Most Misunderstood Creature The Most Relaxing Tour in New York City The Regulars are Coming Blast from the Past Step Back into the Nineteenth Century Top Five Boston Breweries Stop and Smell the Orchids A Football Fan's Dream Mrs. Mallard Returns to Boston Music With A Heartbeat The Funniest Murder in New York City Behind the Scenes at Madame Tussauds NYC Take a Peek at a 14 Foot Tall PEZ Dispenser Real-life Ghost of Christmas Past An Arctic Sojourn at Mt. Washington Vintage Christmas at Strawbery Banke Nineteenth Century New England Christmas Somerville Chocolate Factory Life of a Sailor on Old Ironsides An In-Depth Look at Boston Duck Tours Citi Performing Arts Center Shapes the Boston Art Scene Inside Look at Cape Ann Whale Watch Touring the Dark Side of Boston Meet the Wolfman The Up and Coming Eateries of East Boston Three Top Maine Campsites Behind the Scenes of the Boston Tea Party Springtime Fun in Boston Itinerary for a Single Day in Salem Discover the best hiking trails in Massachusetts In a Jam in Sandwich Trains Trains Trains Zip Into Summer Ski Across New England Massachusetts Movie Moments Hollywood Stars in the City Visit Historic Salem in Massachusetts Historical Fun in Connecticut Family Fun in New York City Make it Count in Massachusetts History on Cape Cod Inspired Fun in New Hampshire Top Things to Do In Rhode Island Outdoor Fun in Vermont See the Beautiful Berkshires Ship Up to Boston for Historical Fun Visit the Famous Big Apple
View More

WHAT'S NEARBY?

New York: New York City

Massachusetts: Cape Cod

Other States: Connecticut Maine Massachusetts New Hampshire Rhode Island Vermont

Need printed maps & brochures for your trip?

You have now added this profile to your suitcase

You are not logged in. To login or create an account please click here