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  • Lizzie Hessek

Cairnwood by Candlelight

I'm still on a Christmas kick. Enjoy all the enthusiasm now before I plunge into my annual post-holiday depression.

Speaking of holiday traditions! Rachel and I have a few that are fairly cheesy (Hello, Sounds of the Season with the Philadelphia Orchestra) and pretty much all spearheaded by me (Rachel let's me drag her around all Christmas, and I let her eat mountains of hot dogs guilt free. It's what makes our marriage work.). One of the most beloved of our winter traditions is Cairnwood by Candlelight.

I discovered Cairnwood when I was working for Partners for Sacred Places, an organization that helps religious congregations protect their historic buildings. We took a field trip to Bryn Athyn one day to see the town's beautiful Cathedral, and my mind blew up. The Bryn Athyn Cathedral is the seat of the General Church of the New Jerusalem, a branch of Swedenborgianism. Never heard of Swedenborgianism? You should probably look it up. It's pretty fascinating. Notable Swedenborgians that you didn't realize were Swedenborgians: Helen Keller! Robert Frost! Danial Burnham! Who knew!?

Once upon a time there was a wealthy Swedenborgian who lived in Philadelphia named John Pitcairn. He eventually got tired of the spiritual depravity of the city and moved his whole family to Bryn Athen where he established a Swedenborgian utopia. The entire Swedenborgian population of Philadelphia moved north and they created a self-sustaining community complete with worship space, a school, a college, and the Pitcairn mansion that hosted many community events. And it still does! The town is still full of Swedenborgians, and they host the most delightful Christmas party every year.

The event has a live jazz band, open bar, seasonal desserts, a gigantic Christmas tree, tours of the house and docents explaining the Victorian dresses on display in the bedrooms. All in this absolutely stunning house. It's pretty much a dream come true.

I found out about the Christmas party at that fateful work fieldtrip to Bryn Athyn, and immediately told our friend Amanda that she needed to attend the event with us. She acquiesed and we have been going together ever since.

Tradgedy struck last year when - after years of buying a ticket at the door - we realized too late that this year you needed tickets in advance and it was all sold out. So this year... I bought tickets a month in advance! Cairnwood, here we come!

#Christmas #Travel #BrynAthyn #HistoricHouse

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