Jim Thorpe, adorned in merry and bright, is a Hallmark film setting brought to life. The crisp air is infused with happiness, and holiday anticipation. Now, if only a soft dusting of snow could be called in on demand–still, it’s pretty close to perfect. The holiday spirit this town exudes in December can be summed up in a single word —“magical”.
All asked the same simple question: “What is an Olde Time Christmas Celebration like for you?” local shop owners sang a resounding choir of “magical”. Every weekend in December (preceding Christmas) means it’s “Olde Time Christmas” and everyone in town is officially in holiday mode.
“It’s really special for families, and watching them create memories,” says Scott Heffelfinger, owner of Curiosities Coffee and Ice House. “It’s really just nothing short of magical“.
For 41 years, the Olde Time Christmas Celebration in Jim Thorpe calls upon classic Victorian charm to add to the allure. Prim and proper in theme– it’s small town America dressed up as the era of “the self made man” and the “entrepreneurial spirit”. A nod to the small businesses dealing holiday gifts, and the hardworking people behind Broadway’s charm? Perhaps. But at this point, it’s tradition.
Tradition is intrinsically valuable, and during the holidays in this little town, it’s truly celebrated. Just ask Sheila O’Neil who decks the halls of her three room bed and breakfast with a live floor to ceiling tree, and lots of holiday history. The doors of the Gilded Cupid are open to the public during select hours. “ We have six generations of hand blown German glass ornaments on that tree” she explains. “We are surprised every year when we unwrap each ornament, and discover that it’s survived another year”.
“The classics will be here. It’s certainly a tradition, and tradition is important” says Tami Davenport of the returning Victorian theme, and family favorite events.
Davenport owns and operates a second hand shop (Wear It Again Boutique) along Broadway, but this year, she’s at the reins of Celebrations as chair. Despite stepping into the role just months before good Saint Nick is set to arrive in Jim Thorpe, she’s proud to say some novel attractions are on the agenda. This year, store owners are kicking up the holly-jolly a few notches with a friendly Christmas decorating competition.
‘Tis the only season in Jim Thorpe when the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway whistle is followed by a “Ho Ho Ho” and a wave from the big guy in red. The Santa Train is back in action this season, and sold out excursions are expected. So buying tickets ahead of time online is recommended.
“A lot of train enthusiasts come to town,” says Jordan Cummins, manager of Jingle Bells Christmas Shoppe on Race Street.
Playing in harmony with the steam train sounds will be classic Christmas music. Visitors will be serenaded by carolers clad with top hats and petticoats. “When you see Santa waving at the kids down by the train, or see the Victorian carolers, it just makes you smile and feels really magical,” Davenport says.
“COVID brought a new customer. People came here from the city for the things they couldn’t do in Philadelphia and New York… the outdoor stuff, the shopping on a small Main Street. And those people are coming back this year” says Heffelfinger.
A day spent shopping in a town like this is so picturesque that you’ll feel like you were dropped into a snow globe. With over 50 boutique shops and galleries, many of which reside in early 19th century homes, hunting for the perfect gift is sure to be a Victorian victory. Whether it’s local, artisanal honey to glaze your holiday ham, or a train ornament for your nephew, there truly is something here for everyone. From a bottle of local wine, to handmade jewelry, pottery, toys, and vintage records— you’ll find just about anything you’re looking for, and probably more.
Moreover, these are gifts that’ll make you feel good. Shopping small is a celebration of triumph–the thriving Broadways, Race Streets and West Broadways of America that stood their ground through Covid closures and uncertainty. It’s a nod to the men and women who came back to throw an Olde Time Christmas extravaganza after several years of hardship. This is the happy ending to the movie.
Checking off your Christmas list in Jim Thorpe means bringing the magic home to place under your tree. After you show off photos of Santa jingling and mingling with your kiddos on the train, your selfies in the elegant horse-drawn carriage, or after you’ve reminisced on your getaway to a winter wonderland– you’ll watch your loved ones open gifts that they will cherish for years to come. That’s what Olde Time Christmas is all about.