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, part of Old Salem Museums & Gardens in Winston-Salem, is a National Historic Landmark District. While traditional Christmas features such as the Candle Tea hosted by the Women’s Fellowship of Home Moravian Church have been scaled back or changed due to the pandemic and some of the buildings continue to be closed, there are plenty of other opportunities to enjoy the holiday season in this charming village.
A good place to start your visit in this living history museum is at the Old Salem Visitors Center. It has plenty of parking and is the place to purchase tickets. Visitor center staff are happy to highlight features on the map and give you tips for navigating the village.
Step Back in Time
Miksch House and Gardens showcase what life may have been like in one of the homes and gardens during the late 18th Century. Get a glimpse of daily chores such as cooking over the hearth or baking in the brick beehive oven like the one used by Sister Henrietta Miksch, an early resident of Old Salem, who baked and sold gingerbread. There is usually some type of rural craft or carpentry demonstration in the shed, and activities vary by the day and by the season.
The Boys’ School experience begins with a short film, and then visitors are invited to explore the Cabinet of Curiosities, which is always a hit with the children. Children also have the chance to recreate the town of Salem by placing scale models of buildings on the town map.
The Potter’s Workshop at T. Bagge features artisans doing wheel or hand work, preparing goods that will be sold in the Handcrafted Salem line, continuing the great tradition of the state’s potters.
Winkler Bakery is always a favored stop where you’ll be transported back in time when you are greeted by workers in period costume and the aromas of wood-burning ovens baking breads, cookies, and other treats. It’s a chance to try the traditional Moravian baked goods like sugar cake, Lovefeast buns, or cookies and seasonal baked goods and cheese stars. The shop also sells tins of cookies and an array of mixes, including Moravian Sugar Cake Mix and Lovefeast Bun Mix. Even if you miss the traditional Candle Tea this year, you can take a piece of Old Salem home with you to enjoy.
Shopping and Good Eats
Moravian Book & Gift Shop is a delightful shop to browse and to find gift items ranging from home and garden décor and North Carolina pottery to books, candles, and specialty food items. Moravian stars, noted for their many points and seen throughout Old Salem, are always popular and often represent the Star of Bethlehem in nativity scenes. The shop has a variety in numerous sizes and prices, which are lovely displayed throughout the season or year-round.
When you need a little pick-me-up, take a break at E.A. Vogler Coffee & Confections, located within Moravian Book & Gift Shop, or stop by the Muddy Creek Café for more hearty fare. It’s on the lower level of T. Bagge Merchant. The café offers sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts.
Make Plans to Visit
Location: Old Salem Museums & Gardens Visitors Center, 900 Old Salem Road, Winston-Salem NC 27101 (336-721-7300)
Holiday Ticket Prices: Wednesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 10 to Dec. 31, 2021 (closed on holidays); $20 per adult, $12 per student, free entry for children up to 3 years old.
Candle Tea: Noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 4 (Rain date is Dec. 11).
This beloved annual event, sponsored by the Women’s Fellowship of Home Moravian Church, will be held outdoors in Salem Square this year and will have a different look due to pandemic restrictions. No tickets required; donations accepted.
Note: due to the pandemic, changes may occur; check www.oldsalem.org for updated information.
For more information, read Candle Tea at Old Salem Kicks Off Christmas Season
(Go Magazine Holiday Nov-Dec 2021)