Christmas in Zoar rings in the season
by Kyle Valentini
Visitors to the village of Zoar in Tuscarawas County can experience an old-fashioned German-style Christmas Dec. 1-2. The restored 19th century village is home to residents and businesses and allows guests to take a peek into the past as they tour homes, historic buildings and the quaint village streets.
Christmas is a special time of year for both village residents and guests. Decorations throughout the village add to the old-world charm and are reminiscent of the German heritage of the original 200 Separatists that called Zoar home from 1817-1898.
Christmas in Zoar includes a host of activities that engage all members of the family. Live reindeer greet guests as they enter the gated garden. A German-styled Santa called Belsnickel, clad in his fur-lined robe, along with Kris Kind, the Christmas Angel, hand out candy canes to wide-eyed children near the broom tree, so named because rather than cut down a live tree the Separatists would insert live pine branches into drilled-out broomsticks for their Christmas trees.
A Santa’s Workshop on the second floor is open for children of all ages. For a small fee, with the help of student volunteers from local high schools, visitors can make a Christmas-themed craft to take home.
Beyond the fenced garden, visitors can take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the village streets, much like the mode of transportation of yesteryear.
Costumed interpreters throughout the village show visitors a glimpse of 19th century life and can be found in the various historic buildings, including the Dairy and Spring House, the Sewing House, the Number One House and the tin shop.
A juried craft show features fine craftsmen and artisans with wares available for purchase in the various historic buildings throughout the village.
Holiday music can be heard all weekend as carolers, choirs and special guests raise their voices in honor of the season. The 1872 pipe organ at the Zoar United Church of Christ is a sight to see as well as hear as it echoes through the halls of the 159-year-old structure that is festooned for the holy season.
The Zoar Bakery will have delicious treats, as well as traditional gingerbread made from the original recipe used by the Zoar Separatists. Various concessions from local churches and nonprofit organizations will provide delicious, homemade food. Soup and sandwiches will be served at the Church of Christ and the Church of the Holy Trinity will feature their famous German bratwurst and sauerkraut along with German potato salad.
Tours of private homes are especially nice at Christmastime when so much extra care goes into the beautifully restored and maintained 19th century structures. Personalized by the occupants, visitors can see the pride that comes with owning one of these unique homes with such historical significance.
Luminaries light the way after the sun goes down and visitors can stroll to the main garden to take part in the lighting of the Christ Tree at its center.
Local businesses in Zoar will keep normal business hours during the holiday event and visitors are encouraged to frequent the restaurants, bed and breakfasts and other shops.
Christmas in Zoar hours are Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m. All proceeds are used to preserve Zoar.
Zoar is located on state Route 212, just three miles southeast of Exit 93 off I-77, approximately 10 miles south of Canton. For more information, call 800-874-4336 or visit www.zca.org.