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Historic author houses are among the best places to get a fix of nostalgic holiday cheer. Here are some literary sites where you can enjoy the seasonal festivities:

The Enchanted Garden at the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, comes alive with thousands of lights during “Poe’s Christmas Illumination” on December 1 from 5-9 p.m. Along with free admission, enjoy mulled wine and take a holiday-themed tour with the museum’s curator.

A visit to Louisa May Alcott’s home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts, is like stepping into the pages of Little Women. It’s only fitting then that this year’s December theme is “A Little Women Christmas” since the novel opens during the holiday season. Meet Louisa and other costumed figures and participate in Victorian-era activities and caroling. The program takes place on weekends in December, and advance reservations are strongly recommended.

The Pearl S. Buck House in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, hosts the annual “Festival of Trees,” with 29 artists, organizations, and community groups decorating the author’s home. Not only is the holiday finery lush and imaginative, some of it conveys a message, too, carrying on Buck’s legacy as a social activist. Through December 30.

Step back in time at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut, which is adorned in the style of a late-19th-century Christmas. The author’s abode is one of several sites participating in the “Friends of the Mark Twain House & Museum’s Holiday House Tour” on December 3.

In Monterey, California, 22 historic homes are open to visitors during “Christmas in the Adobes,” including rare access to the Lara-Soto Adobe once owned by John Steinbeck. At the Robert Louis Stevenson House—now a museum devoted to the Scottish scribe, who lived for a time in the seaside city—shortbread will be served and bagpipes will be playing. December 8 and 9.

The Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, is celebrating the poet’s birthday on December 9 from 1-4 p.m. with homemade coconut made from Dickinson’s own recipe. Admission is free during the event, and a special guided tour, “Christmas with the Dickinsons,” is on offer.

The Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is hosting a Holiday Open House on December 15 and Holiday House Tours on December 16. Along with touring the poet’s lovely home (previously General George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War), take a stroll through the illuminated gardens and listen to Christmas carols.

In a nod to his debut novel Look Homeward, Angel, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville, North Carolina, is putting on “An Angel Christmas” on December 16. Festivities include an exhibition of angel wreaths on the doors and angel figurines displayed throughout the historic 29-room home, where Wolfe’s mother once ran a boardinghouse.

In Salem, Massachusetts, the House of the Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s inspiration for his gothic novel), is presenting “Four Centuries of Christmas Tours.” Walks the halls of the seaside mansion that has stood since 1668, as guides share the history of Christmas in New England. Through December 31.

[Photos © Pearl S. Buck International, Poe Museum, and Orchard House.]

 

I was intrigued to read Brunonia Barry’s new novel The Lace Reader because of its setting: contemporary Salem, Massachusetts. I visited Salem two summers ago to do research for Novel Destinations, which has a chapter devoted to the town’s famous native son — Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose gothic tale The House of the Seven Gables was inspired by a seaside residence there.

The Lace Reader is the story of Towner Whitney, who returns to Salem after an absence of more than a decade. A self-confessed unreliable narrator, Towner hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns of lace. The disappearance of her beloved aunt compels her to finally return to her hometown…and ultimately brings to light the truth about her twin sister’s death.

I enjoyed The Lace Reader as much for the setting as for the plotline. It was fun to read about places I had visited during my Salem sojourn. The House of the Seven Gables (at right) receives a mention, as does the Custom House, Hawthorne’s one-time place of employment.

If you do make it to Salem, it’s an opportunity to explore the landscapes of both a contemporary and a classic tale. On www.thelacereader.com is a walking tour brochure of sites in The Lace Reader (you can also enter a sweepstakes to win a weekend getaway for two to Salem), and thanks to the National Park Service you can take a self-guided walking tour of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Salem.

Along with details about Hawthorne’s ties to Salem and a tour through the House of the Seven Gables, Novel Destinations has plenty of suggestions for a literary itinerary — what to see and do as well as places to drink, dine and doze, among them the ideally-located Morning Glory Bed & Breakfast. You can slumber directly across the street from the famed gabled dwelling. —Shannon McKenna Schmidt

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