At some point around this time last year, Husband hoisted us in the car for some seasonal sight-seeing (we’d just arrived in the United States and were hungering for some charming Christmas cheer). We found it at Colonial Williamsburg, the restored historical area of Williamsburg, Virginia, where visitors can walk through a supposed 17th century settlement. While the food was just a little less than authentic (lurid fluid cheese slopped across corn dogs, huge plastic tankards brimming with saccharine apple cider), we did tap into a traditional feel for the holidays while there…
For a start, the decorations were unreal: all real and natural materials were warped and used in the most mesmerizing, non-chintzy, non-tacky arrangements. And at night was when the magic happened, as hundreds of us clustered together against the cold on the common in front of the governor’s palace. The fife and drum parade paced into our midst, tootling and beating the most bracing tunes as fire flares and pits were lit all around. Then song sheets were passed out and a merry man on a banjo lead us all in some raucous caroling. Classic.
This year we’re on the hunt for another Advent injection and have plumped for a Middleburg, a place planted again in Virginia. It’s a beautiful area, the American countryside of my wildest dreams, and the town is tickled by an oddly English feel. Admittedly there’s one main draw that’s drawing us in: The Christmas Sleigh is smack in the middle of Middleburg’s main street and offers year-round, exclusively European seasonal selections. We’re talking German stollen and Austrian jackets. There are wooden nutcrackers and outrageously expensive ornaments. Hell, there’s even an authentic German Bratwurst House for some sausage action over the holidays. Who could fail to enter some sort of spirit in a place like this?
Well now, I must get onto my picture quick, before I get totally carried away by the Christmassy-ness of it all… I’m going unashamedly chocolate box on you all today with this Winter in the Country (c. 1859) by one George Henry Durrie (1820 – 1863).
It’s a typically quiet and intimate scene from a man who never felt the need to move beyond the small New Haven community he was born into: he married a choirmaster’s daughter and immersed himself in his family and church, painting peacefully all the while. It was his winter pictures that made Durrie’s name and gave him the confidence to focus on landscapes in their own right. That is, landscapes with just a like smattering of country inns and barnyards and scenes of human activity. So to set the seasonal mood today I’m leaving you with a selection of those snow scenes… Brr.