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Holiday Traditions at Pleasant Hill

By Katherine Tandy Brown

Kids are encouraged to dress in their finest holiday clothes for Children’s Tea Time With Mrs. Claus, which includes cider, cookies and sandwiches.
Kids are encouraged to dress in their finest holiday clothes for Children’s Tea Time With Mrs. Claus, which includes cider, cookies and sandwiches.

Stretching for 3,000 lovely acres near Harrodsburg, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill has been a haven of hospitality for more than 200 years. Today it’s rife with discovery, learning and pure fun. Named a top hidden travel destination by BBC news, this national historic treasure provides a great escape in the country no matter the time of year. However, come holiday time, the Village sparkles with music, merriment and laughter amid fresh green swags, wreaths and garlands wound with bright red ribbon. November and December are chock full of special things to do. And when the sun goes down, a 31-foot Norway spruce glows with thousands of twinkling lights.

Daily activities continue, so you can tour the festively bedecked buildings and learn about their original occupants from costumed docents, watch traditional crafts demos, commune with oxen and other heritage farm animal breeds, traverse 40 miles of walking and biking trails, ride your horse over 33 miles of equine trails, surprise folks on your Christmas list with lovingly handcrafted gifts from the shop, and of course, sate your sweet tooth with Shaker lemon pie after a hearty meal that can include dishes made
with goodies from the village’s organic garden.

A sampling of holiday happenings follows. Many include admission to the Village (i.e. The Historic Centre, The Farm and The Preserve), with a full day of self-guided and staff-led tours, talks, activities, demonstrations and farm experiences. You’ll want to mark your calendar and by all means, reserve early.

Candlelight Yoga (Nov. 20 and Dec. 4, 7-8:30 p.m.) All ages and levels of yoga fans can practice in the peaceful atmosphere of the East Family Wash House. Come early, spend the day and treat yourself to a dose of pre-holiday relaxation. $10 fee.

Blessing of the Hounds (Nov. 21 – 9-10:30 a.m.) Each year, Shaker Village hosts the blessing of Woodford Hounds fox hunters, hounds and the fox to officially begin the hunting season. As you snap photos of this colorful, exciting event, warm yourself beside a roaring fire pit and enjoy grilled ham biscuits, Bloody Marys and Irish coffee. Free.

Kentucky Wild (Nov. 21 –  6:30-9 p.m.) Featuring Kentucky quail and other local game, this reservations-only event is part of the Village’s adventurous monthly series celebrating Kentucky food and spirits with an all-inclusive fixed dinner and spirits menu. Celebrated chefs, mixologists and/or musicians drop into these suppers – you never know who might show up! A paid $85 nonrefundable reservation rewards you with a 20 percent discount on a night (Friday or Saturday) at The Inn.

Illuminated Evenings (Nov. 27-28 and Dec. 4-5, 11-12, 18-19) Imagine Shaker Village aglow with tiny twinkling lights and joy around every corner. Drop in the Elf Shop, where Santa’s helpers teach a new craft every evening. Learn to make holiday reed stars, hand-tied brooms, small baskets or beeswax candles and soap, and surprise a friend with a special gift made by you. Hop aboard the Jingle Bell Shuttle, a wagon decked with greenery, for a jaunt through the village. Follow a costumed docent for a lantern-lit tour of Centre Family Dwelling dressed in its Christmas best. Hum along with your favorite carols sung by strolling choirs. Sip hot cocoa and spiced cider by a roaring bonfire. You’ll be laughing all the way home!

Children’s Tea Time with Mrs. Claus (Dec. 5 – 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.) Little kids can dress in their holiday finery for some one-on-one time with Santa’s favorite helper, as they sip spiced cider, and munch cookies and sandwiches made for little fingers. Children must be accompanied by a paying adult. $10 per person.

Herbal Health Workshop (Dec. 19 – 10 a.m.-2 p.m.) Those remarkable Shakers grew, prepared and sold medicinal herbs nationwide. Tap into that timeless knowledge and learn about herb varieties and how you can use them in your home. $35 per person.

Winter Geology Hike  (Dec. 19 – 10 a.m.-noon) Shaker Village has the nation’s largest private collection of rock walls, and on this walk hikers see those and the oldest exposed rock formations in the state without the hindrance of foliage. $10 fee.

Embrace your inner Shaker, extend your experience and stay the night at The Inn. Located in 13 restored Shaker buildings, all rooms, suites and private cottages feature Shaker reproduction furniture, hardwood floors and gorgeous views of the countryside. The next morning, indulge in a sumptuous breakfast at the Trustees’ Table. You’ll cruise into the holidays with a lot more gusto.

Find out more about adding a bit of Shaker to your life at shakervillageky.org or call (859) 734-5411.