Bethlehem -- a pretty place to visit, in Connecticut's Litchfield Hills -- is a small town that makes the most of its name at Christmas time.
Bethlehem is about 150 miles from Boston, 100 miles from NYC, and each December, thousands of people make a pilgrimage to Bethlehem to mark their Christmas mail with the Bethlehem postmark, and also with special rubber-stamps known as "cachets".
Back in 1938, the local Postmaster had a creative moment, as he watched the people visiting his little post office to get the "Bethlehem" postmark on their Christmas cards. He designed the first Bethlehem "cachet": a rubber stamp that showed a tree plus the words "From the Little Town of Bethlehem, Christmas Greetings." Every Christmas since, Bethlehem has added a new cachet, some designed by children or local artists. You can see Bethlehem cachets online.
Families might especially want to visit Bethlehem during the annual Christmas Town Festival early in December.
Bethlehem Christmas Town Festival
Festivities include tree-lighting in the centre of the Village Green, photos with Santa at the Firehouse, hay-rides, holiday music, and holiday shopping for handcrafted items such as toys, decorations, wreaths, and homemade jams, pies, and other goodies.
An ornament-making workshop is held at the Bellamy-Ferriday House and Garden, which dates back to 1734 and is now a small museum.
Bethlehem also has an Abbey-- the Abbey of Regina Laudis -- and visitors can buy crafts such as pottery, candles, knitted goods and wool from the abbey's own sheep, or iron work hand-forged at the Abbey Blacksmith Shop.
Visitors can also buy limited-edition pewter Bethlehem Christmas Town ornaments, at the Festival's Information Booth.
Find out more about the Bethlehem Christmas Town Festival.
Can't make it to Bethlehem?
All of which makes for a fine New England holiday outing. But if you can't make it to Bethlehem... About.com's Guide for New England Travel tells you how to have your mail decorated with Bethlehem's cachets nonetheless.
*Check for updates at the Bethlehem Christmas Town Festival site.
*photo courtesy of Northwest Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau.