Living Tradition: Christmas at Weymouth Begins Tomorrow
One of the most delightful holiday events in the Sandhills is the celebration of Christmas at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities in Southern Pines.
Reflecting the warmth with which the original owners of the gracious home, James and Katherine Boyd, greeted their guests during the Yuletide season, the annual Christmas House tour at Weymouth takes place Thursday, Dec. 4, through Saturday, Dec. 6.
The Women of Weymouth, the fundraising division for the local center of cultural activities, have been welcoming the public to the December festivities at Weymouth for almost 20 years. The Christmas House tour draws together the efforts and talents of hundreds of people -- decorators, florists, garden clubs, merchants, individuals, artists and musicians, who give of their time and resources to transform the Boyd residence into a rewarding experience of holiday cheer and splendor.
Carol Van Zanten, the Christmas House chairperson, says the occasion is "Our gift to the Sandhills. We are grateful for the many hours our volunteers contribute. There is something for everyone to enjoy during the days and evenings of the tour, from our Children's Tour with Santa, the evening Candlelight Tour and Carols at Weymouth, to musical entertainment and floral demonstrations and refreshments."
The garden clubs, individual decorators and designers and local businesses who participate in beautifying the rooms and the grounds of the Boyd residence each year have researched and created their plans for converting the setting into a sparkling remembrance of a true Southern Christmas, the theme of this year's celebration. Many of them repeat their involvement year after year.
Among the 12 garden clubs that regularly participate is the Southern Pines Garden Club. This year the club is in charge of decorating the Connecticut Avenue entrance to Weymouth, and according to chairperson Mary Schwab, they wanted to accomplish a really different "look" reminiscent of Charleston and in keeping with the overall theme of a Southern Christmas.
"We hope people will be surprised and pleased by the feeling of entering a holiday wonderland," says Schwab.
In the past, the Southern Pines Garden Club has decorated large rooms and small rooms, including last year's Writer's Study.
"It is such a delight to be a part of the Boyds' legacy of hospitality during the Christmas season," says Schwab.
The Linden Garden Club is also a longtime contributor to decorating Weymouth for Christmas. Nona Burrell, chairperson for the Linden Garden Club, says the committee is given the task of coming up with the design for whichever room the club is assigned. This is supplemented by a workshop in the fall for club members to create their own ornaments to be used in the overall decorations.
This year, the club is doing a child's bedroom with a small tree made of rosemary branches and trimmed with miniature teddy bears and twinkling lights. One of the club members made two quilts with a Christmas theme to drape across the bed, and other touches include an antique rocking chair and a Radio Flyer wagon.
Debbie Amos has been an enthusiastic participant for more than five years as one of the local merchants who decorate the rooms and grounds of Weymouth for the annual Christmas House Tour. The Garden Room displays her interior design talents this year. A cottage-style rug provides a cozy accent to warm the room. Multi-colored birds nestle in the branches of a beautifully trimmed Christmas tree. She has used seasonal greenery highlighted with tones of pink and lime, and complementing the holiday spirit is LED lighting for the tree as well as several unusual lamps from her shop, The Wild Hare.
Aldena Frye, the well-known local custom floral and silk designer, has turned The Great Room into a wonderful Christmas-y Southern hunting lodge, with swags of greenery and topiary animals made of boxwood, nandina, and varieties of other shrubs and vines. A small table laid with English china is set for a Santa snack, and the mantel is trimmed with Christmas greens, candles and a traditional hunting horn. Two table-top trees festooned with glass ornaments complete the scene.
On Friday, Dec. 5, at 12:30 p.m., as part of the ongoing entertainment provided during the Christmas House Tour, Frye will present a seminar on floral design and how to incorporate native greenery, plants and flowers into a homeowner's holiday decorations.
The program of entertainment Thursday, Dec. 4, held in The Great Room, features Jane McPhaul, pianist; Mary Margaret McNeill and Missy Brown, duo pianists; and pianists Dorothy McDonald, Chris Stewart and Tamara Lee and her daughters, together with Nancy Coor, soprano, accompanied by Sondra Nelson on piano.
Continuing on Friday, Dec. 5, the program includes Sue Aceves and Carol Tilton, duo pianists and Darlene Skinner, pianist and after the Frye presentation, a duo of Kaitlyn Johnson, violin, and Chase Johnson, cello, will perform, to be followed by carol singing.
On Saturday, Dec. 6, Weymouth guests will be entertained by Beverly, Richard and Benjamin Dunlop, piano, voice and guitar; Ruth Sinclair's piano students; Nathan Brower, piano/vocal, and closing the program, group carol singing.
Refreshments are served to guests on the tour on all three days. A committee, led by dedicated volunteers, Gerry Turk and Marion Guida, provide punch, hot tea and coffee, and cookies -- hundreds of them, homemade by the Women of Weymouth. The cookies, a fragrant reminder of those gaily decorated Christmas cookies baked by countless mothers and grandmothers of past generations, encompass all-time favorites such as ginger cookies, chocolate chip cookies and an extra-rich butter cookie in the shape of a star topped with meringue and red and green sugar sprinkles.
The cookies also find their way into specially decorated gift bags, together with candy canes and other sweet treats, that are given to each child who comes to the Saturday morning Children's Tour. At the end of the tour, the children have a chance to meet Santa and one of his elves.
"It's such a magical time," Turk says.
In addition, the cookies are also served with punch, tea and coffee at Carols at Weymouth Thursday evening. The tradition that began with the Boyds as an informal gathering singing carols around the fire has developed into a pleasurable part of the Christmas at Weymouth festivities.
Carols at Weymouth will be celebrated twice during Thursday evening -- at 5:30 and again at 7:30. The Christmas story from the Bible will be read by Dr. Grady Perryman of Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church at 5:30 and at 7:30 by Bebe Brooks, qualified preaching elder at Rex Presbyterian Church. Musicians appearing at the early hour are The Pinecrest Choral Ensemble directed by James Brown and Kaitlyn Johnson, violinist, and Chase Johnson, cellist, while Richard Dunlop, baritone, accompanied by Beverly Dunlop, and Lindsay Leach, flutist, will appear at the later time. Poetry readings by Cos Barnes and Malaika Albrecht and group carol singing will close both the presentations, which are sponsored by Lloyd Cutler.
The special Friday evening tour, first introduced last year, is being repeated due to its initial success. Weymouth by Candlelight features wine, cheese, desserts and music in addition to a view of the 25 wonderfully decorated rooms of what was known as the manor house when it was occupied by James and Katherine Boyd, authors, publishers and philanthropists.
"Every year, we strive to make Christmas at Weymouth the most beautiful display of the season for our guests," says Van Zanten. "This year is no exception."
Contact Mary Elle Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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