By Leah Chester-Davis
The historic village of Old Salem beckons visitors during the holiday season with its lovely pine and magnolia decorations and the peaceful glow of candlelight, an invitation to slow down and enjoy the early traditions of a Moravian Christmas.
The village is part of Old Salem Museums & Gardens in Winston-Salem, a National Historic Landmark District. In early December, the Women’s Fellowship of Home Moravian Church presents the 92nd annual Candle Tea at the Single Brothers’ House. This beloved tradition is the way many families begin the Advent season. It’s a chance to experience an example of the celebrations that Moravians brought with them from 18th century Germany. That history comes alive in this charming village of yesteryear and carries special meaning today as the Candle Tea fills visitors with the Christmas spirit.
Volunteers dressed in period costume greet visitors as a Moravian band plays carols in the square. As you enter the Single Brothers’ House by light of a magnificent Moravian star, it’s easy to be transported by the symbolism of the season to a time when Christmas celebrations and decorations were much simpler and all about family, community, and taking time to reflect on the season. As scents of beeswax candles and Moravian sugar cake waft through the air, you are invited to join in singing Christmas carols and hymns as tunes are played on an historic organ.
Learn about the symbolism of the beeswax candles, used during traditional Advent and Christmas Moravian Lovefeast celebrations, and watch candle makers at work. The visit includes a chance to see a late 1800s kitchen complete with a raised fireplace, ovens, and piped in water, which prompts a story about George Washington’s visit in 1779. Enjoy being treated to the delights that the Candle Tea is known for, the Moravian sugar cake and coffee, while learning about early Moravian food traditions.
The last part of the tour includes two putz traditions in Moravian homes. A putz is a decorative miniature village. The first is a scene of Old Salem during the mid- to late 1800s that men of Home Moravian Church have crafted and built to scale. Both adults and children alike enjoy viewing the tiny replica of a snowy, winter day in the village. The other putz is an elaborate Nativity scene accompanied by a reading of the Nativity story, a quiet and reflective way to wrap up the visit and start your observance of the Christmas season.
Candle Tea 2021 is offered Dec. 2 and 3 from 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Dec. 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Dec. 9 and 10 from 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Dec. 11, 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Plan an hour to an hour and a half for your visit. Tickets (cash or checks; no credit cards) are available on site at the Single Brothers’ House, 600 South Main St. in Old Salem; $8 for adults and $2 for children. (NOTE: Old Salem Museums & Gardens tickets do not apply.) A limited number of reservations are available on the website for Thursdays, Dec. 2 and 9, from 4 to 8 p.m. and Fridays, Dec. 3 and 10, from 4 to 8 p.m. The historic building is not ADA accessible. All proceeds go to various outreach nonprofits. COVID- 19 protocols will follow local and state guidelines as issued by the CDC, state of North Carolina and local health officials.