Get ready for the "most wonderful time of the year" as the Exchange Place hosts its formal kickoff with the annual "Christmas in the Country" celebration on Saturday, December 5, from 10 AM to 4 PM at Kingsport's tradition-rich Living History Farm located at 4812 Orebank Road. 

Christmas in the Country features fresh greenery and trees, handcrafted wreaths and roping, and other holiday decorations.  Unique folk arts and crafts will be found on both sides of Orebank Road, including hand-crafted wood items, barn wood furniture, handmade baskets, hooked rugs, pottery, quilts, handmade greeting cards and jewelry.  Your taste buds will be tempted with baked goods, hot sauces, jams and jellies, and goat cheese, and you can pamper yourself with a variety of herbal products, soaps and natural lotions.  More than two dozen area and regional vendors will have their wares on display and for sale on both sides of the historic Gaines-Preston farm. Most especially, Christmas in the Country furthers the mission of Exchange Place by demonstrating a slice of 1850s wintertime farm life in our region, and showing how our ancestors would have prepared for the holidays.  

Inside the hearthside kitchen there will be day-long demonstrations of 19th century cooking and baking, as the Eden's Ridge Hearth Cookery Society will be preparing traditional holiday fare, focusing on the European cultures that settled in Appalachia - English, Scots/Irish, and German. They will be making boiled plum pudding, Moravian sugar cake, and Christmas meat pie, with salsify fritters and mashed parsnips rounding out the meal, and of course everything will be cooked on the open hearth (no gas or electric stoves in those days!).  

Meanwhile, Exchange Place's Junior Apprentices will be popping popcorn for stringing in the Cook's Cabin and chopping wood and splitting shingles in the barn.  Over in the blacksmith shop, the skills that were needed to make hardware and tools for the farm, fix wagon wheels and, of course, shoe the horses, will be demonstrated throughout the day. There may also be demonstrations of candle-dipping and lye soap making.  

Finally, capping off the day will be the traditional Yule Log Ceremony, which will begin around 4:15 pm.  Originated by the Vikings, it served as a way for them to honor their gods and request good luck in the coming year.  Later it was incorporated into the harvest festivals of Germany and Scandinavia, then moved to England when the Normans conquered the isles, and eventually was brought to the New World by the Pilgrims.  While the Preston family may not have burned a Yule Log, we like to make it a part of our Christmas in the Country as a symbol of peace and good will for our wonderful community.  Since it was often decorated with evergreens and sometimes sprinkled with grain or cider before it was finally lit, we encourage everyone to bring a sprig to cast onto the fire, and also to wear fine, colorful headgear to the event, which will conclude with the singing of carols and, of course, a cup of hot wassail!  Derived from the Anglo-Saxon "waes hael," which meant "Be in Health" or "Here's to You," wassail helps us to emphasize the spirit of health and friendship. 

For additional information, please call (423) 288-6071. Admission is free, and the general public is cordially invited. For additional upcoming events, please visit historicsullivan.com.