Kindle your Christmas Spirit by Visiting The Rocks Estate

September 24, 2012

Getting into the Holiday Spirit at The Rocks Estate

(From Victorian times to online shopping…?)

By Meghan McCarthy McPhaul

With row upon tidy row of Christmas trees, splendid White Mountain vistas, and plenty of good cheer, The Rocks Estate in Bethlehem has been getting people into the holiday spirit for more than two decades.

“We try to offer both a traditional holiday experience and a few fun new twists to the season each year,” says Nigel Manley, longtime manager of The Rocks Estate which also serves as the Forest Society’s North Country Conservation & Education Center. “We try to keep the experience fresh.”

This year, The Rocks will deliver tradition in its holiday-themed activities at the farm and with a newly offered Victorian Christmas tree. The modern twists come with an updated online shop and a mobile tour that allows smart phone users to access information about the history of The Rocks, the conservation efforts practiced throughout the property, and the differences between the varieties of Christmas trees grown at the farm.

The Rocks opens Nov. 17 and is open daily right through Christmas Eve. Weekend Christmas tree seekers at The Rocks may enjoy a range of holiday-themed activities, from horse-drawn wagon rides through the historic and picturesque Estate to roasting marshmallows in the fire pit and noshing on freshly popped kettle corn. The Rocks’ own Green Father Christmas greets visitors young and old, presenting children with fir tree seedlings to bring home.

Beyond trees, visitors will find two shops with all they need to deck the halls, plus plenty of unique gift options. The Gift Shop is chockfull of wreaths (made on site and with new designs created each year), ornaments, New England-crafted pottery and jewelry, and maple syrup made with sap gathered at The Rocks.

The Rocks Marketplace, in the main building, includes an array of items crafted by local artisans in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine – from baskets and homemade fudge and to whimsical home goods and treats for Fluffy and Fido.

This year The Rocks also boasts a revamped online store, offering a variety of Christmas trees and holiday wreaths, along with ornaments, garland, and tree accessories. The new online store was designed to be shopper-friendly. All items include free shipping, and customers may create a holiday wish list and ship to multiple addresses with one order.

One addition this year to both the online shop and the farm’s cut-your-own and retail lot is the Victorian Christmas tree. Manley describes this as a “more open tree,” that is not as impeccably symmetrical as today’s standard, and very full, farm-grown trees. It’s a style customers have been asking for.

“Each tree’s going to be slightly different,” said Manley. “It’s definitely like what they’d have had in Victorian times, but even 25 years ago, Christmas trees were like this.”

It’s the kind of tree, perhaps, that would have been trimmed by John Jacob Glessner and his family, who created The Rocks Estate as a working farm and summer retreat in the late 1800s. Glessner’s descendants donated the 1,400-acre property to the Forest Society in 1978, and it evolved from a dairy farm into a tree farm in the 1980s. The Rocks now sells more than 6,000 Christmas trees and 2,500 wreaths each year.

The Forest Society also maintains a trail system on the property (open year-round to public use), manages the property for wildlife habitat and conservation, and orchestrates a series of natural history education programs at The Rocks throughout the year.

It’s a beautiful place at any time of year, but at Christmastime, The Rocks is magical.