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Bethlehem New England’s Christmas Town

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The quaint town of Bethlehem Connecticut located in the heart of the Litchfield Hills has several interesting attractions that are especially interesting this time of year.

The Bellamy Ferriday House and Garden, www.ctlandmarks.org/?page=bellamy-ferriday-house-garden located on 9 Main Street is owned by the Connecticut Landmarks Society and was once home to the first theological seminary in the country started by the fire and brimstone preacher Joseph Bellamy. Later the Ferriday family purchased the home and updated it. The Ferriday's planted a garden that now boasts dozens of heritage flowers including a historic rose and lilac collection. The family left the house to the Society. Although not open this time of year, the house is a grand backdrop to the Bethlehem Village Green.

Another attraction in town is the Abbey of Regina Laudis www.abbeyofreginalaudis.org that was founded in 1947 by Benedictine women with the help of Lauren Ford, a famous painter whose paintings were often used for Christmas cards. Ford lived in Bethlehem on a farm she called Sheepfold, inspired by biblical texts. When Ford died she left her farm to the Abbey of Regina Laudis who continues to print and sell Christmas cards today with images created by Lauren Ford.

The story of Lauren Ford and the founding of the Abbey was captured by Clare Boothe Luce who wrote the book for the movie, “Come to the Stable” co-starring Celeste Holm, Lorretta Young and Elsa Lanchester that played the role of Lauren Ford. One activity not to miss at the Abbey is Vespers. Each day at 4 p.m. the nuns gather in the chapel to sing the Gregorian Chants. On December 23 at 4:15 p.m. Vespers is followed by the Blessing of the Christmas Tree; on December 24 at 4 p.m. is the first Vespers of the Nativity and on December 25 at 4:30 p.m. is the Second Vespers of the Nativity. The Abbey also offers a Christmas CD of chants http://abbeyofreginalaudis.org/video&chant.php?mediaID=8&autoplay=1.

The Bethlehem Post Office www.postofficehours.net/CT/Bethlehem.html located on 34 East Street is one of the busiest places in town. People come from the tri-state area every year to mail holiday cards with the unique “Bethlehem” postmark. Visitors can select from over 71 cachets that are hand designed by area artists, local residents and even school children. The special stamp for 2013 is dedicated to Sandy Hook and has 26 angels on a Christmas Tree.

Local postmaster Earl Johnson started this wonderful tradition back in 1938 when he designed the first special Bethlehem rubber stamp. The hours of the post office are extended during the holiday season through December 26. The post office is open Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information on Bethlehem and the Litchfield Hills www.litchfieldhills.com

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