A Connecticut Christmas, Globe Pequot Press, $26
The word “heartwarming” has been diminished by overuse, which is unfortunate when one comes across something that truly deserves the description. The feelings conjured by this book are ones the reader will want to savor. This is the kind of book that induces a quiet joy, a work that invites memory and reflection, that celebrates home fires and pungent greens and the twinkling lights that carry us through the darkest nights of the year.
Winter in New England is a time to go deep. Deep into the unearthly whiteness of our woods; deep into the undulating purple and grey skies which stretch in every direction; deep into our landscape, where stories intersect across a rich expanse of history.
A Connecticut Christmas chronicles how the holiday is welcomed and celebrated across the state, in country inns and art museums, on city streets and ancient farms. With photography by Caryn Davis, and accompanying text by Eric D. Lehman, it is a carefully curated homage to the ‘most wonderful time of the year.’
Some pages are moving, some delightful. The particular joy of this book is in its treatment of much cherished settings, like trees festooned atop the tall ships docked at Mystic Seaport; as well as sweet and wonderful anecdotes: the inventor of the Erector Set, the state’s pioneer tree farmer, and a legendary medieval king all make appearances.
The book also explores long-standing Christmas activities and traditions, from vintage toys completing the holiday majesty at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion in Norwalk, to traditional tea (think scones and cucumber sandwiches) at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, to horse-drawn carriage rides on the New Haven Green.
With so many happenings described in sumptuous detail, this book is a beautiful reminder that each year it is possible to experience Christmas “as we wish we remembered it. It does exist...”
A Connecticut Christmas succeeds because even as it acknowledges our homegrown luxuries (like the French cuisine served fireside at the Homestead Inn in Greenwich) it gives equal weight to ordinary wonders: the pleasure of holly berries poking through the snow, the bundled traipse to find the perfect Christmas tree.
This passage from the introduction sums it up perfectly:
"Hopefully you will find your own traditions, your own memories, your own magic moments in the following pages. Maybe you’ll feel something brimming inside, like the electrical current in the long string of colored bulbs. What is it? A longing for home? Yes, that’s it. But, wonder of wonders, you are already here.”
A Connecticut Christmas is available locally at RJ Julia Independent Booksellers in Madison, where Caryn Davis will sign pre-ordered copies of the book on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. Signed copies may also be ordered online at rjjulia.com. Davis will also hold a book signing at The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, 295 West Ave., Norwalk, in the museum’s Gift Shop on Saturday, Nov. 25, from noon-1 p.m. Lockwood-Mathews’ famed holiday displays are featured in the book. For more information on that signing, visit lockwoodmathewsmansion.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 203-838-9799.