I was here before Kitchen Kettle was a gleam in my Mom and Dad’s eyes. This is my 67th Christmas, that’s more years than Kitchen Kettle has been in existence.
Whether or not the Village existed, Christmas was always a very special time of year for my family. I have wonderful memories of the house which is now By Candlelight decorated with festive trees, my Mom playing carols on the piano in the living room, fighting with my brothers over who could open their gifts first and my grandparents coming from Philadelphia to celebrate the holidays. My favorite memory was Betty Smoker and her family from down the street, knocking on the door Christmas Eve and singing carols on the front porch to entertain us as we ate Christmas dinner.
When I was about 10, Kitchen Kettle was up and running, and the summer months were busy. September and October brought people who wanted to see the colorful leaves on the trip across the turnpike or in from the Philly and New York suburbs. But Christmas was not a busy time of year. The weather was not encouraging anyone to visit – it was cold, often snowy and got dark early. Indoor malls were jammed with people. But we were still here cooking jelly with the stores open and unfortunately had very few people to talk to.
Mom came up with an idea to hold an open house. Decorate the stores instead of the house. Greet everyone who came with a free glass of Christmas punch, have plenty of cookies out to sample and invite our neighbors. The challenge was put out to find special ways to celebrate the holiday in ways that we didn’t throughout the rest of the year. Specialty Days, as we titled it, was Kitchen Kettle’s first festival. And it was primarily for our neighbors to come visit and enjoy the holiday season.
Specialty Days worked so well that we kept up the Christmas version and soon added an event to the autumn season as well. My brother had moved to Maine by then and he came home in October. One year he brought home dozens and dozens of lobsters that we steamed and served to guests and neighbors for dinner, with my Dad shucking raw oysters as a bonus and the seafood feast (not a Pennsylvania Dutch theme but it worked) was birthed.
Spring was the best kept secret in Lancaster for a very long time so we found something to celebrate during that time of year – Rhubarb! Who knew more about rhubarb than we did at the time? We made four different kinds of rhubarb jam, invited people to join us for a zany party and voila! We started a Rhubarb Festival that has lasted for 35 years.
My assignment was to write a Christmas memory of Kitchen Kettle in the early days. I may have gotten a little off track, but Specialty Days at Christmastime was the beginnings of our holiday festivities in the Village. What started as an idea to invite our neighbors in to celebrate something special turned into a year ‘round model of celebration, enjoying the opportunity to share some fun and good food. What better reason to celebrate Christmas in the same nostalgic wonderful way? The local carolers are still here; dinner with Mrs. Claus is now a tradition for my grandchildren I wouldn’t change for anything; s’more making in the middle of the Village all wrapped up in mittens, scarves and wool hats is hard to find anywhere else; and shopping for gifts from the heart that were likely made right here is an experience to treasure for many more Christmases to come.
This year we celebrated our 64th holiday season at Kitchen Kettle Village. We invite you to take in the aromas of freshly baked seasonal treats, wander through our simply decorated Village and pick up a few Christmas gifts along the way. You just might find an unexpected treasure to take home! Through the holiday season we stay open ’til 9pm on Friday nights. Come and enjoy the beautiful lights of the villages as you shop.
See you soon!
Joanne Ladley, 2nd Generation Burnley Family