Candlelight Christmas Presentation at Tryon Palace

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529 South Front Street, New Bern, NC, USA

Candlelight Christmas Presentation at Tryon Palace New Bern Reviews

vances vances
575 reviews
Leave the light on Dec 19, 2015
May seem an unnecessary supplement to the Tryon Palace review, but this annual event is a both a significant departure and a wonderful celebration deserving separate billing.

Held the last two Saturday evenings immediately prior to Christmas Eve, the Candlelight Christmas festivities begin at 4:30PM. Several blocks of downtown (immediately in front of Tryon Palace) are closed to vehicular traffic so pedestrians have full sway. All are welcome to mingle on the streets, where there are a few booths selling trinkets and a BBQ truck serving dinner (not many options to sit and enjoy your meal, unfortunately).

One of the evening’s true highlights is also staged outside the gates and free to the public. I had never heard of a Jonkonnu (also spelled Junkanoo, but both pronounced ‘John-Canoe’), a lively street parade performed Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. The performance originated among slaves in Jamaica and continues to thrive in the Bahamas. Complete with costumes and music, I was thrilled to witness the very upbeat parade, complete with call-and-response chants in songs and frequent abduction of crowd members to join the raucous dancing!

To participate in the rest of the action, however, requires you to purchase a ticket. The quantity is limited and I seriously lucked out. I had ventured to New Bern specifically for this event but failed to purchase a ticket on-line ahead of time. Well, I did try the day immediately before and was disappointed to see “sold out”. When I toured the palace earlier in the day, however, I expressed my disappointment and learned there was precisely one ticket remaining (god bless the solo traveler!).

The magic ticket gets you beyond the gates of Tryon Palace, where many delights await. There is a cider house offering complimentary ginger cookies and hot cider to take the chill off. Well done demonstrations of blacksmithing and ale brewing are carried out in temporary shops set up on the grounds. Better yet, there is a rotation of fun performances under a big tent, including magicians, acrobats, jugglers, fire eaters and sword swallowers. Hay bales are set out to sit on and I caught two different groups – both were top notch and great fun!

Your ticket has a time imprinted on it and that is when you need to queue up in front of the palace for the main attraction. This is a tour through the mansion, decked out to mimic a grand holiday celebration circa 1773. I found this to be wonderfully executed. Your group proceeds through several rooms where actors slowly reveal a fun little intrigue, revealing tidbits of the mystery plot and a few historical insights (nothing like the regular tour, which is jam packed with information). The actors interact with the crowd in ribald fashion, quite entertaining.

All this fun concludes with a fireworks show around 9:30PM (actually when the last group has been escorted through the palace, but I believe sparks flew within five minutes of scheduled time). A refreshing, memorable way to get into the holiday spirit.
Jonkonnu parade at Candlelight Chr…
The Jonkonnu vibe was infectious
Several key performers had elabora…
A warm spot by the brewers shop.
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photo by: vances