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Shepherdstown boasts of Christmas past

November 29, 1996

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer, Charles Town

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - In what is becoming a tradition here, Shepherdstown residents will dip back into the town's past to celebrate Christmas this year.

Shepherdstown is said to be the oldest town in West Virginia, and starting today, the town will put on a week-long celebration that will involve the portrayal of some of the town's original families.

Jan Bender, one of the organizers of Historic Christmas in Shepherdstown, said the event is an education, particularly for the younger generation, as much as a celebration.

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"There are many descendants of the first families still living in Shepherdstown, and we want children to be aware of that," Bender said.

There has been a Christmas in Shepherdstown celebration for nine years, but for the last three seasons, it has focused on the town's history. The Potomac River village was settled between 1730 and 1734, although settlers probably began arriving about 1719.

On Dec. 7, revelers dressed in period attire will portray the town's original settlers in a parade down German Street. Visitors also can get a taste of the town's past by dropping by the Shepherdstown Men's Club on German Street this Saturday and Sunday and catching tales from local historian Jim Price, Bender said.

Price will tell stories about the town's history, particularly those involving around the holiday season.

This year's event also marks the return of "The Gift," a short play depicting Christmas celebrations among a rich and a poor family during the 1800s.

The play will be offered both weekends at the Thomas Shepherd Inn at the corner of Duke and German streets, Bender said. The play was offered the first time last year, and was popular among the visitors to town, Bender said.

Today, shops downtown will open and offer refreshments, Bender said. From 6 to 8 p.m., there will be horse-drawn carriage rides downtown, and at 7 p.m. the town Christmas tree will be lit in front of McMurran Hall in the center of town.

Town criers will roam the streets to announce the celebration's events, and friendly characters known as "pocket-puts" will be scurrying about handing out candy, Bender said.

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