If you’ve been to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, you’ve seen historic, costumed interpretation at its most polished and regimented. Old Salem lacks that sheen and form, which is exactly why I prefer it. I’m enchanted by its folksy nature, by the offerings of comfortable accessibility.
Our tour group silently shuffles over cobblestone streets. The ambient light from the windows of centuries-old buildings boosts the glimmer of the guide’s lantern. Throughout the rest of Winston-Salem, brake lights burn red in traffic lines and asphalt parking lots fill to capacity. Not here in Old Salem. Here, I have gone back 200 years--temporarily removing myself from the fray.
At each stop on our candlelit tour, I understand a little more about the Moravians, a Christian-based sect from the Czech Republic that founded Salem in 1766. I learn of the kindred community of tradesmen who addressed the men as brothers and the women as sisters.
These 18th- and 19th-century tours include stories and music in some of the community’s best-preserved homes. Four tours are offered beginning at 6:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays from November 28-December 20. Cost: $18 adults, $12 ages 6-16, free ages 6 and under.
Here in Old Salem, I’m so enlightened by this simple Christmas celebration, I slough off the layers of holiday anxieties like extra bed blankets. You need only to step on the cobbles to experience the same.
Old Salem Museums and Gardens: 600 South Main Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101; www.oldsalem.org or 1-888-653-7253. Museum admission: $21 adults, $10 ages 6-16, free ages 6 and under. Access to gardens and stores is free.