Candlelit Hancock Shaker Village
A Holiday Celebration With The Shakers
By: Maria Reveley - Dec 12, 2017
On December 9th, we experienced an enchanting evening at Hancock Shaker Village. The first snow of the season was falling, and the 750 acre property was blanketed.
As we checked in, our boots making prints in the snow, we could see the Round Stone Barn off in the distance. Paths were lit with candles in the snow, and lights began to flicker in the windows of the various buildings we passed.
For those of you not familiar with the Shakers, theirs was an intriguing religious movement in America which originated in 1774. Ann Lee brought the movement over from Manchester, England seeking the freedom to live, work and worship as she chose.
This utopian society believed in pacifism, celibacy and communal living with males and females considered to be equal. Shaker religious expression took the form of singing and ecstatic dancing, leading to their being called Shaking Quakers or Shakers.
Hancock was settled in 1783 and remained active until 1960. Their striving for perfection in their work made the Shakers fine craftspeople. Their contributions to American culture are important in the areas of art, architecture, craftsmanship, music, government, agriculture and commerce. Shakers are especially well-known today for their architecture and furniture.
The first building we entered was the Round Stone Building, a unique and beautiful structure housing calves, goats and miniature donkeys. The Shakers felt the round shape was very functional, having four rings with the smallest being used for ventilation. This draws the moisture out and prevents mold. The Barn could hold 70 cows, and the rings also helped to separate the milk from the manure. Using many trapdoors, the manure could be swept out frequently and then used to fertilize the gardens.
The Barn was lit with lights and four Carolers singing Shaker music. Mulled apple cider helped to keep us warm. We passed into the area where the rest of the Village animals are kept: pigs, sheep, calves, goats, sheep and chickens. This was the warmest part of the Barn!
From there we went to the 1830 Brick Dwelling, which used to serve as a dormitory for more than one hundred brothers and sisters. Here we had a delicious and simple meal of fresh vegetables, cheeses, hummus and ham biscuit sandwiches served with a variety of cold and warm beverages.
It was delightful to eat in this room, imagining the Shakers many years before living their focused lives in such beauty and simplicity.
At the end of the meal, we learned more about Ann Lee, the Shakers and their music. The Carolers sang Shaker music, some with words and some without. All of us were surrounded by the fine Shaker craftsmanship in their tables, chairs, holiday decorations and the simple, functional design of the building.
We then moved out onto the property, singing Christmas carols as we walked through the corn-starchy snow and stopping at various buildings. Our return visit to the barn seemed to entertain the animals, especially the sheep!
Walking in the silence of the snow and evening light, raising our voices in song, ended a truly magical and transporting evening.
If you would like to visit Hancock Shaker Village and experience a trip through time, please visit their website: www.hancockshakervillage.com to learn more about it. (413)-443-0188