Join us for the Spirit of Christmas Past – Dec. 21

The Spirit of Christmas Past in New England

Virtual Lecture at the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum

Wethersfield, Conn. (December 14, 2020)—Did you know Connecticut was the first in New England to make Christmas an official state holiday in 1845? It was just another work/school day in a several New England States until 1858. Kenneth C. Turino, manager of community partnerships and resource development at Historic New England, will partner with the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum (WDS) to present “The Spirit of Christmas Past in New England,” a visual, virtual lecture tracing the development of Christmas, on December 21, 2020 at 6 p.m. Grab a cup of Christmas cheer and join Turino and WDS Executive Director Joshua Campbell Torrance for this fascinating exploration of Yuletide history. The free program will be held via Zoom. Register here.

Turino’s presentation will examine how Christmas was transformed from a rowdy celebration to a family centered event. Among the topics illustrated will be how the Christmas tree became popular, the evolution of the Christmas card, and Santa Claus.

Turino says that though many Christmas traditions are considered age old, in reality many customs we take for granted are a product of more recent history, drawing from a variety of cultures and often varying by region. It was not until the mid 19th century that Christmas trees became a national practice, following their popularization in magazines and books.

One of the oldest traditions in the United States is begging or the giving tips at the holiday, brought by English settlers and part of the Christmas celebrations associated with mummery and the Lord of Misrule.

About Kenneth Turino

Ken Turino is a curator, educator, director, producer, and author. As manager of community partnerships and resource development at Historic New England, he oversees community engagement projects and is responsible for the exhibitions program at the Sarah Orne Jewett Museum and Visitor Center in South Berwick, Maine, and the Langdon House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His films have been shown on PBS, including the prize winning film, “Back to School: Lessons from Norwich’s (VT) One-Room Schoolhouses.” He has published numerous public-history articles, many focusing on historic sites and LGBTQ history. His 2019 publication with Max von Balgooy, “Reinventing the Historic House Museum, New Approaches and Proven Solutions,”  was nominated for “Book of the Year” by the National Council on Public History. He currently has a book on the history of Christmas in development. He has served on the Council for the American Association for State and Local History and frequently consults on interpretive planning and community engagement projects at historic sites across the country. In addition, he teaches in the Museum Studies Department at Tufts University.

About the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum

Located in the heart of Connecticut’s largest historic district, the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum provides the quintessential New England experience – from the American Revolution to the early 20th century. Tours include the 1752 Joseph Webb House, where General George Washington met with French General Rochambeau and planned the military campaign leading to the end of the Revolutionary War; the 1770 Silas Deane House, built for America’s first diplomat to France; and the 1788 Isaac Stevens House, which depicts Connecticut life in the 18th and 19th centuries. For more information visit: or call (860) 529-0612, and like us on Facebook:

(image credits: Historic New England)