For three decades, Christmas in St. Michaels has served as a celebration of the holiday season and strengthened the bond of a community through its goodwill
It started for the need of a childcare center. In the mid-1980s, many mothers in the Bay Hundred — the area that encompasses St. Michaels and Tilghman Island — did not have stable childcare resources, making it very difficult for them to work.
According to Mary Lou McAllister, a founder of Christmas in St. Michaels and this year’s chair of the Yuletide Party, “There was nowhere for these women to safely leave their children, so a group from Christ Church began a holiday home tour to raise money for a facility. The community response was outstanding, and in just two years, we got it open,” which is now known as Critchlow Adkins Children’s Center.
The Tour of Homes, which was first chaired by McAllister and Peg Rogers, is today the centerpiece of the 30th Annual Christmas in St. Michaels, a three-day celebration of the wonders and joys of the season. The mission of the event is to raise funds in support local non-profit groups in order to enhance the quality of life for the residents of the Bay Hundred community, all while throwing a fabulous weekend-long celebration.
This year’s Tour of Homes, one of the longest-running events of its kind in Maryland, includes 10 homes, the most ever presented. Each is located in St. Michaels or adjacent to the town and is uniquely decorated for the holidays. Many lovingly showcase heirlooms, antiques and collectibles, each providing a peek into the family traditions of the homeowner.
“This year our emphasis is on natural and live decorations — bringing the outside in, so to speak,” said McAllister. “The homes are charming, welcoming and beautifully appointed. Many people come to gather ideas for their own homes, others to appreciate the beauty and get into the spirit of the season.”
All of the houses in “town” (downtown St. Michaels) are within walking distance of each other. The proximity offers the opportunity to walk through town and soak up the historic atmosphere. Most of the homes, built in the 18th and 19th centuries, were at one time the residences of watermen and seafarers.
The “countryside” homes are located just outside of town. Several are situated on expansive waterfront settings. These houses offer exquisite architectural details and are creatively set amidst the Eastern Shore landscape.
Tickets for the tour include transportation by professionally licensed shuttle busses between the homes. The buses will leave from the St. Michaels Middle & High School Complex parking lot on Seymour Avenue.
Bringing It All Together
Barbara Rose, chair of the 2016 event, and the event committee are busy putting finishing touches on the Christmas in St. Michaels schedule. For them, this is more than a celebration, more than making kids smile, more than making family memories. It is a contribution.
“Since our inception, Christmas in St. Michaels has raised more than $1 million for local charitable organizations,” said Rose. “Literally hundreds of volunteers make the weekend possible. Their time and talents shine through the weekend. It’s a huge team that is augmented by the generosity of the community and the homeowners who open their homes for the tour.”
Recipients fall into one of five categories: Conservation & Environmental Preservation, Family Services, Education and Child Development, Historical Heritage, and Community Enhancement. All must be in and benefit the residents of the Bay Hundred. This year 20 local organizations will benefit from the funds raised. (To be considered for 2017 grants, visit the website for the grant application.)
According to McAllister, the event has not only been responsible for creating the childcare center, it helped build the town swimming pool, has supported all the churches in community outreach and has always been available to support all kinds of projects in the community, from backpack drives to learning programs, little leagues to museums and fireworks.
“The impact of this event has been huge. Christmas in St. Michaels is the largest fundraising event in the community when you look at numbers of people, the amount of money raised and what has been done with the funds. It’s a both a fundraiser and a community builder,”
IF YOU GO:
Tickets for the Home Tour are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Tours will be held on Saturday, December 10 from 11:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday, December 11 from 11:00am to 4:00pm. Shuttle bus transportation between homes is included and participants receive a detailed tour guide book. The ticket also allows entry to Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
Tickets can be purchased or found at “will call” at Granite Lodge on St. Mary’s Square: Friday Noon – 3:00pm; Saturday, 9:00am-5:00pm; and Sunday, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Tickets can be purchased on the website and at stores on Talbot Street, including Charisma, Chesapeake Bay Outfitters, Chesapeake Trading Company and The Christmas Shop.
CHRISTMAS IN ST. MICHAELS
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