How you can have a Norman Rockwell Christmas in Mass.

Main Street in Stockbridge will recreate the painting that made it famous.

Main Street at Christmas in Stockbridge.
A previous Main Street at Christmas celebration in Stockbridge. –Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce

Stroll down Main Street in Stockbridge this Sunday, and you’ll feel as if you stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting. Literally.

The picturesque town in the Berkshires will recreate Rockwell’s 1967 painting, “Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas (Home for Christmas)” during the 28th Annual Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas celebration Dec. 1-3. The weekend-long event attracts thousands of visitors each year, and about 2,500 visitors alone during Sunday’s recreation, said Barbara Zanetti, executive director of the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event. The portion of the street in the painting will close to automobile traffic on Sunday between noon and 2 p.m. so guests can enjoy the scene. 

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Rockwell lived and worked in Stockbridge during the last 25 years of his life. He began the Main Street oil-on-canvas painting in 1956 and completed it in 1967 for publication in McCall’s magazine.

“The entire weekend revolves around what Norman Rockwell depicted in the picture, which is being home for the holidays,” Zanetti said.

Norman Rockwell’s “Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas (Home for Christmas),” 1967. —Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©Norman Rockwell Family Agency. All rights reserved

Organizers age the part of Main Street depicted in Rockwell’s painting 50 years by parking vintage cars from the ’40s and ’50s in front of the buildings. However, the chamber uses many more cars than Rockwell painted, parking up to 55 vintage ones in the area for the event, Zanetti said. A red 1955 Mercury with a Christmas tree on its roof will be parked in front of the Red Lion Inn, similar to what’s depicted in Rockwell’s painting.

The inn itself is dark in the artwork because it was a seasonal operation at the time Rockwell depicted it, said Jeremy Clowe, manager of media services at the Norman Rockwell Museum.

“They don’t actually turn off the lights. They don’t go that far,” joked Clowe about the recreation.

Visitors may spot another big difference between the painting and real life: the mountains. Rockwell “took a little artistic license,” Clowe said — there aren’t actually any mountains behind Main Street.

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The twinkling Christmas tree in the window above the Stockbridge General Store will be present at the event, Zanetti said, just like in Rockwell’s painting. In fact, that room was Rockwell’s studio from 1953 to 1957.

The celebration kicks off Friday night with holiday readings at the library. On Saturday, holiday house tours are always popular, Zanetti said — participants can save money by seeing all of the featured homes for one price during this event. This year, guests can tour BlantyreEastoverNaumkeag, the Historic Merrell Inn, the Charles Owen House, and The Old Rectory. Children’s activities will include face painting and holiday crafts sponsored by the Norman Rockwell Museum, and Santa will arrive on Main Street via fire truck. On Saturday night during the Caroling Luminaria Walk, more than 100 carolers will sing from the porch of the Red Lion Inn prior to a candlelit walk to the First Congregational Church. A holiday concert will follow at the church, performed by Berkshire Lyric and the Blafield Children’s Chorus.

“This street hasn’t really changed,” Clowe said. “All the buildings have the same storefront. There’s that sort of timeless quality of the Christmas spirit and holidays. People have really responded to that.”

28th Annual Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas from Friday, Dec. 1 to Sunday, Dec. 3; Main Street, Stockbridge; library readings, caroling, kid’s activities are free, home tours are $20, holiday concert is $25; entry to the Main Street recreation of Rockwell’s painting is $5

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