December 13, 2012 — In this glorious season of peace on earth and good will toward men, approximately 75% of our time is spent either shopping or thinking about shopping. The other 25% is watching Christmas-themed commercials.
I’m not complaining. I like Commerce-mas. Even though buying things for loved ones is like bad charity, it does give me the opportunity to wrap presents, which is the pumpkin carving of Christmas. And, while I might be wrong, I think my season is better for having Miser Brothers action figures, Charlie Brown Tree™ table decorations, and breakfasts of gingerbread Pop-Tarts and Christmas Crunch.
So, to make the most of the season while spending, I try to spend some of my season amidst the twinkly pine ambiance of Christmas-themed stores. Like the Christmas Loft. Like Hershey’s Chocolate World. And, like the Yankee Candle Villages.
The Yankee Candle Villages are Yankee Candle’s flagship stores. There’s one in South Deerfield, MA, and another in Williamsburg, VA. This is an account of my experience at the former. Actually, experiences, since I’ve been there twice. Once in the off-season a couple of years back and once last weekend, right in the middle of the madballs Crazy-mas season.
We pulled into the parking lot just about a half hour after it opened…and the lot was packed. Attendants were stationed to direct traffic, and I counted at least 12 tourist buses…no hyperbole. All there for jars of wax. To set on fire.
The whole place is a warren of interconnected stores full of a variety of stuff: home goods, kitchen supplies, fashion accessories, toys, candy, Christmas decorations, and, of course, hundreds of thousands of jars of strongly scented paraffin. You can even make your own candles there. I called mine “Molotov Cocktail.”
But people aren’t just there to shop (although people do buy candles there like fire isn’t the devil’s only friend). You can find most of that in any mall. The Yankee Candle Village is as much spectacle as it is store. With spectacle defined by the type of person excited by the false smells of awesome things that aren’t in their house. So, not really spectacle, I guess.
Take the toy store. Sure, it’s got toys, but right in the middle of it is a permanent Santa’s Work Shop, a festive, shed-size room where you can hang out with the Kringles and ask him why he insists on such tiny screws in battery compartment lids. He and his wife are there at predetermined hours throughout the year, but during our peak-season visit, they’d moved him to the Yankee Candle museum. For space reasons, I’m assuming. Also, Because it has a museum.
Or you can go to the Christmas village section where they have large displays of those tiny electronic Christmas villages, including a Mt. Crumpit for Grinch collectibles and the obligatory small Halloween section.
Or you can go to the café, which is decorated like the outdoors, with large fake tree trunks and leafy ceilings. There’s also a small stage there where they host performances.
The best part of the whole place though, is that they celebrate Christmas Bavaria-style, that ancient German state that is as much a part of the Christmas consciousness as Dickensian London and Culkinsian New York. Which makes sense. I mean, sure the candles are Yankees, but if you want a New England Christmas you just have to step outside, at least for the one in Massachusetts. I’m not sure what goes on in Williamsburg.
The places features a Christmas village, with Bavarian cottage-facades lining the walls, a ceiling made to look like a night sky, and a large Christmas tree in the center. There’s Nutcracker Castle, a giant castle façade fronted by a moat full of koi that opens onto a shop of carved gifts of the German persuasion, and even a Black Forest of Christmas trees where fake snow falls from the ceiling every few minutes.
I didn’t see any Krampusnacht stuff, though.
Anyway, even though the place is huge, the individual sections and stores can get pretty crowded during Yule-time. But it’s worth a few elbow bruises in your ribs and tree ornament shrapnel in your forehead to eat fudge and wassail like you’re in central Europe.
And now everybody in my family knows that the reason they’re all getting scented candles from me for Christmas is because I wanted to hang out at the Yankee Candle Village. Merry Candle-mas, guys.
|Oh, they do have candles.|
|A 20-year-old, 1,377-pound candle|
that would burn for 7.5 years straight.
|Obligatory Halloween section.|