Grand Illumination. Photo Credit and Courtesy of: Peddler's Village.

Victorian decoration, live entertainment and holiday treats, are just some of the attractions of the Peddler’s Village annual Christmas Festival in Lahaska, Pennsylvania. In the middle of rural Bucks County, this artsy shopping village is the perfect location for a seasonal jamboree.

The Christmas Festival takes place every year on the second weekend following Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season. Free admission and free parking are among the festival’s many charms. Visitors can enjoy the winding, tree-studded brick walkways of the shopping village without the bother of cars or busy streets, as the village is solely accessible to pedestrians.

This isn’t your every day shopping mall—the 18th century-style architecture of the quaint shops is nostalgic and especially fitting for a Dickens-esque Christmas theme. The shops offer treasures not easily found at chain stores. It is the perfect place to shop for holiday gifts for those with unique tastes, as many shops are owned by talented jewelers and craftsmen who sell their own work.

A great place to shop for kids is called The Fun Place. You won’t find video games or mind-numbing electronics here. At this toy store, it’s all about interactive fun with friends and family. Here you will find games which you might have thought haven’t been made for years.

Margaret Murray, who estimates this year’s festival as her 15th visit, says that her favorite store at Peddler’s Village is called The Artisan’s Gallery, a shop that offers artistic home décor, jewelry, and knickknacks.

“I could stay and look through their kaleidoscopes for hours,” she said.

On the first day of the festival, there is an afternoon parade during which an authentic, old fashioned looking Santa Clause makes his first appearance at the Village. Kids can visit Giggleberry Fair, a small arcade, where they can have their picture taken on Santa’s lap and enjoy an old-fashioned carousel ride.  There are also games and activities in Giggleberry Fair, so the children can stay occupied and warm up indoors.

During the Christmas Festival, carolers in Victorian garb, called the Spiced Punch Singers, stroll the grounds like minstrels and entertain visitors. Their a cappella versions of Christmas favorites set the mood. In the center of the 42-acre village, visitors take breaks from their shopping and strolling to have a quick boogie and listen to musicians. Magicians and other performers can be found perusing the grounds, keeping children busy while parents sneak off to purchase Christmas presents.

This year marked the Festival’s 31 Gingerbread House Contest and Display. Over 130 gingerbread creations could be found in the Village Gazebo. The gingerbread constructs, which often go beyond houses, venturing into movie scenes, authentic replicas of famous buildings, and not ending there, must be 100 percent edible to be qualified to enter the contest. This year’s categories were: Go Green, Authentic Reproduction of a Significant Building, Incredibly Unusual 3-Dimensional, Traditional, Student, and Kids Only. Carolyn Silverstein, the first place winner for the “Go Green” category, included in her gingerbread house a bicycle, a greenhouse, and many other necessary tools for a sustainable lifestyle. Carolyn Olivierio won first place in the “Incredibly Unusual 3-Dimensional” category for her sugary recreation of the Christmas morning scene from A Christmas Story—bunny costume and leg lamp included.

During the Christmas Festival, visitors can warm their hands around a cup of tart, hot apple cider cooked over a fire in an old-fashioned cauldron, and homemade pretzels. Kids can toast marshmallows for free.  Village pubs and restaurants offer warm comfort foods for lunch and dinner.

Visitors overwhelmingly expressed that the Peddler’s Village, one-million lights display is their favorite part of the festival. Just as dusk falls, the Village is illuminated entirely by lights, becoming a wonderland of color and holiday spirit. It is the perfect spot to take a photograph of the family for the annual Christmas card or just to enjoy an evening walk.

“I would suggest that visitors stay until dark to see the Christmas lights. That’s my favorite part. You just have to see it,” Alisha Wehrenberg, of Long Valley, New Jersey, advised.

Murray explained her routine at Peddler’s Village. “I suggest eating early to avoid the crowds, so then you can see the lights after dinner.”

Though the Christmas light display is a must see, Peddler’s Village makes for a lovely outing during any season. The Village will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012, and will kick off its year-long birthday party in January, featuring a birthday cake recipe contest, a photo memories contest, concerts, movie nights, and more.

For more information on the Peddler’s Village visit http://www.peddlersvillage.com.

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