Candia’s Lights on the Hill Keeps Spirit of Country Christmas
By Leslie O’Donnell 11-28-16
An historic white church, its steeple soaring high, sets the scene for Candia’s annual Lights on the Hill, a celebration of the season of Christmas.
Lights on the Hill, now in its 20th year, takes place Saturday, Dec. 10 from 1 to 8 p.m., at the historic 19 th century buildings centered around the Candia Congregational Church. Pathways between the various buildings on the hill and at nearby Jesse Remington High School are lit with iconic luminaries, making the evening hours particularly festive.
" We keep the philosophy of sharing a country Christmas, the reason for the season, and a gift to the community," Deb Puderbaugh said of the focus of Lights on the Hill. She is the overall administrative "go-to" person in the volunteer group that produces the festival.
Activities take place in historic 19th century buildings beginning at the corner of Route 27 (High Street) and South Road, not far from exit 3 off Route 101. Admission is free, and donations of hats, warm gloves or socks are welcome.
The festival started as an evangelistic ministry of Candia Congregational Church to share the Christmas season with families, friends and the community, Puderbaugh said. It was the brainchild of the pastor at the time, who also taught Bible at Jesse Remington. "He talked to a couple of the church women, who then worked together to make it happen," Puderbaugh recalled. "Sometimes Christmas can be so commercial and crazy, and we have such a beautiful area on the hill and want to share it."
While the first Lights on the Hill events were produced by the church, the event has grown to include the community at large. "The beauty of it now is that a lot of community people and groups are involved," Puderbaugh said. Those groups include the Girl Scouts, Candia Clovers 4-H, and performers from the schools and from the community, who donate their musical services for the day.
Lights on the Hill is still a ministry of the church, with the goal of sharing a country Christmas. None of the activities are meant to be fundraisers - any money that comes in goes to reimburse the costs of the event. At the bakery, for example, home- baked goods are donated, and the money raised from their sale goes to pay for more festival lights, postage, paper and the police detail.
Another successful part of the event is the donation of warm coats, hats, mittens and scarves. In the past few years, those items have been donated to the homeless in Manchester.
The church and surrounding buildings are an integral part of the early history of what is now the Town of Candia. The town was originally part of the Town of Chester and was known as Charmingfare, but became the separate parish town of Candia in 1763. When the original meeting house burned in 1838, the current church was built and served as both house of worship and meeting house. Prior to the construction of the first meeting house, residents of the area had to travel to Chester for their town meeting and worship.
During Lights on the Hill, the church carillon will play Christmas music for festival- goers to enjoy as they walk from site to site, visit the Christmas Store for stocking stuffers, and enjoy food at the cafe. Down the hill from the church is a one-room schoolhouse, which serves as a bakery that day, while across the road is the Masonic Hall, home to a coffeehouse from 5 to 8 p.m. The Smyth Building, listed on the National Historic Register and owned by the Town, features a collection of créches from around the world and plenty of knowledgeable members of the Heritage Commission to share tidbits of Candia history.
And down the road at the Jesse Remington Farm, the barn is home to a "Bethlehem stable" of live donkeys, oxen and sheep, with a campfire, weather permitting, on the lawn where visitors can roast marshmallows.
On Stevens Lane, buildings at Jesse Remington High School will house crafts, music, face painting and cookie decorating for all ages - they’ve ordered 750 cookies this year - and it’s all free. The Remington Education Center hosts face painting and cookie decorating with the Girl Scouts, Stevens Hall is the setting for free Christmas crafts and photos, and the Shiloh building offers balloon sculptures. Jesse Remington is a regional Christian high school and a ministry of Candia Congregational Church. Remington was a Revolutionary era pastor to the Town of Candia.
While the luminaries light the way between the buildings, free shuttle buses also traverse the area to deposit visitors at each location. " This is a safe place to have fun with your family," Puderbaugh said. "I love being part of it."
She said a lot of people return each year to take part in what has become a family tradition. Last year’s event attracted over 1,000 attendees. And Puderbaugh said they are delighted to see children who have grown up and are now parents bringing their own children to carry on the tradition. "We see them having their picture taken in front of the Christmas tree and doing a Christmas craft each year," she said. " It’s wonderful to see their faces."
Entertainment includes balloon sculptures as well as music by Nicole Murphy, the Concord Coachmen Chorus, the Granite State Cloggers, and students from Henry Moore School and Jesse Remington High School.
For more information, call 483-0506 or visit www.candiacongregational.org or www.facebook.com/lightsonthehillNH .