Handmade confections, roasted chestnuts, Yule logs and incredible decorations warm the Northeast with holiday cheer. Here's a handpicked roundup of favorite traditions, from the White Mountains' annual Cookie Tour to the peppermint pigs of Saratoga, N.Y.
The annual Holiday Cookie & Candy Tour hosted by Country Inns of the White Mountains brings hundreds of spirited, and hungry, holidaymakers to quaint northern New Hampshire. Dressed in Christmas colors and brandishing cameras and area maps, they go from inn to inn, noshing on homemade sweets and sipping cider in many a cozy parlor.
|Admiral Peary House|
One of the fun traditions of the Cookie & Candy Tour is that each inn or B&B has to decorate a tiny tree for competition. All tour participants vote on their favorite, and the winner gets a sum of money for the charity of their choice. Pictured here: the tiny tree from Admiral Peary House, the newest stop on the tour as of 2012.
|Sleigh Rides at Omni Mount Washington|
Of course, most of the trees in the White Mountain region are the opposite of tiny. The grand historic Omni Mount Washington is located in famous Bretton Woods, which guests can survey on a traditional sleigh ride. Afterward, it's mulled drinks and holiday cheer by the fire.
According to Northeast U.S. holiday lore, the peppermint pig is a Victorian tradition that used to be enjoyed after the family Christmas dinner. Breaking the hard candy pig into pieces and sharing it around the table was thought to bring a prosperous new year. If you've never shared a peppermint pig before, don't fret; Saratoga Sweets in Upstate New York is famously reputed to be the only place that still makes them.
|Hershey Christmas Candylane|
When it comes to sweet-themed activities, nowhere in the region tops Hershey for choice or spectacle. Treat the family to Breakfast with Santa at Hershey Lodge or plunder the shops in Hersheypark Christmas Candylane. Indulge in hot chocolate, s'mores and plenty of Kisses for all.
|Lobster Trap Christmas Tree|
Another unique tradition, the lobster trap Christmas tree, isn't something you're likely to spot outside a few New England fishing villages. Tall, green-sprigged and bedecked with ornaments, these seem almost like normal Christmas trees. But look closer, and there's no actual tree in there. Pictured is the largest lobster trap tree in Maine, made extra festive by its glowing lobster topper.
|Nutcracker Collection, LimeRock Inn|
A renowned collection of nutcracker dolls and memorabilia, housed within a charming turreted Queen Anne Victorian: The LimeRock Inn in Rockland Maine is so Old World, you almost forget it's in New England and not the Jolly Olde England across the pond.
|Edaville Christmas Festival of Lights|
Can't get enough of that holiday sparkle? The Edaville Christmas Festival of Lights is one of the most popular Massachusetts family activities. This vintage amusement park transforms into a holiday fun village, the highlight of which is a train journey through the spectacularly lit holiday scenery. This decades-long tradition is a partnership with Polar Express.
Colonial Williamsburg isn't a town so much as a living history park with Busch Gardens affiliations. Thus, during the holiday season, every person, venue and bit of landscape simultaneously erupts with theatrical Christmas cheer. There's a Christmas Carol buffet and one-man performance; a ceremonial Firing of the Christmas Guns and, of course, carolers, chocolate, ice skating and a Christmas market.
|Stowe Mountain Lodge|
And for those people looking for a white Christmas, picturesque Stowe Mountain Lodge is promising snow, glorious snow…plus cozy warming indoor traditions like a poinsettia tree and après ski spiked eggnog.