December 22, 2011

The 228th Christmas in the Enos Kellogg House

Christmas 2011

As much as I like to stay true to the 18th century period of the house, I make a big exception when it comes to Christmas time.  Christmas in New England in the 1780s just wasn't sufficiently festive for my tastes, and I can't imagine forgoing a glowing tree for the joys of a full day in church and maybe a piece of candy or fruit.  To be fair, Enos Kellogg and his contemporaries didn't have the benefits of electricity, injection moulded plastic and recorded music, each of which lend their unique charms to our modern Christmas.  Hell, they didn't even have Santa to spearhead the whole initiative.  Sure, there was St. Nicholas, but the original St. Nick lacked the panache of Santa (by the way, let's take a minute to thank Thomas Nast, Clement Clarke Moore and Coca Cola for the gift of the man in red, as we know him today).  Nonetheless, sometimes modern life is just unquestionably superior to those happy golden days of yore, and Christmas, like indoor bathrooms, falls squarely into that category.
That said, contemporary, 21st century style Christmas is not my thing either.  As far as I'm concerned, the Christmas aesthetic peaked in the 1930s and 40s.  Granted, this is no doubt informed by too many viewings of A Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street (the original 1947 version starring the definitive silver screen Santa, Edmund Gwenn, not the abomination of a remake from 1994).  Still, all-white Christmas tree lights, jewel-colored LEDs, designer-trees bedecked in gold ribbons, and Justin Bieber Christmas songs leave me cold.  I need hot-burning C6 lights from the '40s (preferably bubble lights), mismatched ornaments, tinsel, and the classic Bing Crosby holiday catalog.
My favorite ornament - a gift when I was 8.
So, this year's main Harrington Christmas tree is lit by approximately 100 vintage lights (on dimmers so as not to set the place afire), including 25 bubble lights from the late 1940s.  Ornaments include a hodgepodge of decorations that range from some early glass ornaments the my parents gave us, to some 50s and 60s favorites that hung on my grandparents tree when I was young, to a small group that Jenny gave me for our first Christmas together in 1994, to  a paper plate wreath that our daughter Brooksie made this year.  There is no theme, certainly no sophistication, and the only thing that unifies the tree is the tinsel that covers everything.  Still, it all works together, as far as I am concerned. 

Living Room Hearth - Stockings Hung with Care

As you can see, the rest of the house gets the full vintage Christmas in Connecticut treatment, as well.  Greens from our yard, antique Santas, snowmen, sleigh bells and, of course, the Christmas Garden all get their due.  Did I mention the second tree in our den? Suffice it to say, we have a lot of ornaments.  Don't ask how many plastic tubs all of this stuff fills up in the off-season. 

While it may not feel like it when we're in our dirty second floor crawlspace pulling out container after container of decorations, it's a labor of love, and the resulting excitement of our kids, which manifests itself in almost a full month of frenzied singing, dancing and sundry Christmas spirit makes it well worth the work. 

So, while I take a pass on authentic colonial Christmas, I can't imagine spending Christmas anywhere other than in our old house.   For making it possible, and with apologies to Charles Dickens, raise a glass of Christmas cheer, and I'll give you Mr. Kellogg, the Founder of the Feast!

Merry Christmas!

Vintage Santa and nativity set (thanks, Mom) on the pewter cupboard

The Corner Cupboard

Snow babies and pewter measures, a Christmas present from Jenny a few years ago

Santas and Stoneware

Antique Carousel and Bottle Brush Trees

Dining Room Pewter Cupoard

Tree #2

The Christmas Garden


  1. John,

    What a wonderful blog, and what a wonderful house. So fun to read that you triumphed over the evil P&Z grinches and now have modern plumbing.

    I grew up in Norwalk (an area near the Rowayton railroad station) and was fascinated as a high-schooler with the old houses in the area. J. Frederick Kelly's book, which you quote in your blog, became my bible. (I found the book in the Brien McMahon High School library and it changed my life.) From then on, I dreamed of restoring an 18th century New England house.

    Fate, and marriage, brought me instead to the cornfields of Illinois where the oldest house I could find was built in the 1870's. Still, it is a fine yellow farmhouse on 5 acres and is a fun, maddening, and never-ending restoration project.

    Thanks for a beautiful blog. Next time I'm in Norwalk I'm going to to try to drive by your house (there are some intriguing clues) and admire it from the road. If I'm successful I'll leave a note in your mailbox.

    Thanks again for sharing your adventures.
    Adelaide Aime
    adelaide.aime at

  2. Thanks so much, Adelaide! It's always nice to get such friendly feedback, especially from a native Norwalker.

    Definitely come knock on the door the next time you are in Norwalk - we would be more than happy to give you the nickel tour.

    And good luck with your own farmhouse!

  3. Hooray for an old school Christmas! I couldn't agree with you any more if I tried! What a beautiful home....

  4. Thanks, Andy! Sometimes you just need to party like it's 1949.

    1. I hadn't really thought about it until I reread your post again, but the general aesthetics of Christmas really did peak in the 1930's or so. (give or take a decade)
      At our 1924 bungalow we have always gone with the big old school lights outside and we never cease to get a big reaction in our hood. There's just something right about them.

  5. Just say No to tiny, all-white Christmas lights!

  6. Gorgeous what more can i say.


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