7 most unique old-time holiday events in WV

If the commercial bustle of modern America threatens to be a bit much for you this holiday season, never fear— West Virginia has some old-time escapes.   

You can easily step back into an earlier era of horse-drawn wagons, warm downy quilts, candle-lit Christmas trees and wood stoves at any of these holiday festivals around the Mountain State.

1. Feast of the 7 Fishes, Fairmont

West Virginia has a strong Italian heritage, going back to immigrants who worked on the railroads, in the mines and as loggers. Their descendants in Fairmont keep these roots alive with their Feast of Seven Fishes the second Saturday of December.  

Why fish? In the Old Country, Italian communities– especially around Naples and Sicily– would celebrate Christmas Eve with a traditional fast from red meat, focusing on abundant seafood. The “7 fishes” comes from a connection to the Catholic 7 Sacraments.

In Fairmont, a cooking school teaches you how to create this lavish dinner at home, and a street fair celebrates heritage with Italian cuisine, music, wine, Catholic mass and more. Decadent food and drink during the holidays– don’t miss it!

2. Heritage Farm’s Christmas “Way Back Weekend,” Huntington

Located in the riverside city of Huntington, Heritage Farm is a museum and period-specific historical village that celebrates Appalachian heritage and history. Their “Way Back Weekends” events are fun-filled extravaganzas of artisans, music, food and special museum tours. On Dec. 5, they will have wagon rides and a petting zoo for the kids, as well as showcases of traditional crafts like blacksmithing, spinning, soap making and more.  

3. Colonial Christmas at the Adam Stephen House, Martinsburg

Martinsburg is one of West Virginia’s older cities, dating well back into the colonial period when we were part of the Old Dominion of Virginia colony. The home of Martinsburg’s founding father, General Adam Stephen, has been restored back to its early republic state of the 1780s, and is open year-round for historical tours.

One of the best times of year to visit this stately limestone mansion is during the holidays. During the annual Colonial Christmas event the first 2 weekends of December, the Adam Stephen House will show visitors how the holidays were celebrated during the colonial days with period music, food, and decorations. Although donations are appreciated, admission is free!

4. Fort Randolph’s Christmas on the Frontier, Point Pleasant

If Martinsburg was a stately colonial town in the 1700s, Point Pleasant was the rough’n’tumble frontier.  This point at the junction of the Kanawha and Ohio rivers was a meeting place– and sometimes battleground– between British soldiers, colonial settlers and Native Americans.

Fort Randolph was established during the contentious year of 1776 as the westernmost outpost of the original 13 colonies. Although the original 2 structures that made up the fort no longer exist, it was recreated near Point Pleasant’s Krodel Park. Go to the fort and see how our ancestors celebrated Christmas on a cold, isolated frontier!

5. Bramwell Christmas Historic Homes Tour

Bramwell was once a hotbed of West Virginia’s southern coalfields, and its beautiful historic district still houses a museum, banks, shops and coal baron mansions, all from the turn-of-the-century heydays of the coal boom. Every Christmas, costumed historical guides lead visitors on a tour of the town’s finest and best-preserved mansions, telling stories of wealthy aristocratic Christmases from this bygone era.  Reservations are not required, but there is a $15 tour fee.

6. Olde Tyme Christmas, Harpers Ferry

The small town of Harpers Ferry is one of the most history-rich places in West Virginia. For the holidays, the entire town comes alive with festivities Dec. 1-10. Streets are decorated, locals dress in period costumes of the 1860s, and 19th century folk music fills the chilly air. This event is also especially great for the kids, with puppet shows, storytelling and extended shopping hours throughout town.

7. Appalachian Coal Town Christmas, Beckley

Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine’s recreated coal camp, youth museum and mountain homestead are all beautifully restored snapshots of the past, from a turn-of-the-century coal mine. Although the actual mine tours close for the season Nov. 1, the place kicks off the holiday season with its Coal Town Christmas, during the last weekend of November and first weekend of December. Come for caroling, horse and wagon rides, campfire marshmallows, arts and crafts, and a special underground coal mine tour.

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This post was last updated on November 30, 2017