December E-Views From The Gables
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A Very Hawthorne Christmas
by Alyssa G.A. Conary
Development Associate

My former sad experience, as you know, has gifted me with some degree of insight into the gloomy mysteries of the human heart, through which I have wandered like one astray in a dark cavern, with his torch fast flickering to extinction.

Thus states the narrator in the opening paragraph of Hawthorne’s tale, “The Christmas Banquet.” Leave it to Nathaniel Hawthorne to set the “gloomy mysteries of the human heart” across the backdrop of Christmas dinner.

This isn’t just any Christmas dinner, however. “The Christmas Banquet” is the story of an annual Christmas dinner, paid for by a bequest made in the last will and testament of an old man who lived “a long life of melancholy eccentricity.” The bequest stipulated that the guests invited to the banquet must be “ten of the most miserable persons that could be found.” Every year, the old man’s skeleton sits at the head of the table clothed in a black mantle.

Besides our dearly departed philanthropist, only one other man is invited to the Christmas Banquet consistently, with the rest of the group swapped out yearly. His name is Gervayse Hastings, and at every banquet he is disparaged by this “aristocracy of wretchedness” for not being miserable enough to deserve an invitation. Hastings has a stable life, a family, and a good job. How could his woes possibly compare with those of the sick, the heartbroken, and the dispirited.

Hawthorne’s story concludes with the explanation that, although Hastings’ life may appear satisfactory, it is his unfeeling emptiness that warrants him a place among the dejected. Hastings complains to his fellow banquet guests of “a chilliness - a want of earnestness - a feeling as if what should be my heart were a thing of vapor…” His despair exists in his “longing to exchange his load of ice for any burden of real grief that fate could fling upon a human being.”

So, what is the moral of the story? That there is value in sadness because at least it’s something you can feel? That a diagnosis of clinical depression is preferable to one of antisocial personality disorder? We’ll take it, Mr. Hawthorne, because this is what we love about you; your ability to shed light upon the darkest aspects of the human condition.

I highly recommend that you read this story, maybe just not on Christmas.
Give the Gift of Membership
During this season of giving, give back to the community by supporting The House of the Seven Gables with an annual membership. 

Through December 31, purchase a membership to give, and get one for yourself to enjoy. 

Becoming a member of The House of the Seven Gables gets you:
  • free admission to our tour and grounds.
  • an invitation for you and your family to our Fourth of July celebration on the seaside lawn.
  • the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at our museum with members-only tours of the site.
  • free or reduced entry to our many lectures and events.
  • discounts on your purchases in the Museum Store.
  • the knowledge/satisfaction that your are supporters.
Sign up today to claim this special offer and support The House of the Seven Gables, a century-old organization dedicated to preservation, education, and community service.
Click here to download the gift membership form
Elves and Shoppers...
Does your holiday list have you stumped?

Are you looking for a gift for that “Someone who has Everything”? 

Consider giving a Brick that will be installed in our entry walkway at The House of the Seven Gables!  We will mail you a Gift Certificate to present at the holidays.  Your gift can immortalize a name, phrase or even a pet.
Fundraising for our Phase 2 Brick Project is nearing its end. The installation is expected to take place in 2017. 

All those who purchase a brick will be invited to a ribbon cutting!
Click here to download the brick project order form
Photo of the Month
Photo by Allison French @thegrungewitch
Gifts at The Gables
The Museum Store welcomes you with local flavor for your holiday shopping.

We carry an assortment of ornaments to decorate your house, including our beautiful snowflake suncatchers and exclusive The House of the Seven Gables ornaments that will make your home sparkle.

Bring home some wassail for your family and friends, or choose from a wide selection of tea and candies.

Parking is available on site. Our store is beautifully decorated for the holiday season. The atmosphere is relaxed and our staff is ready to assist you during your shopping experience. Members of The House of the Seven Gables received a discount on their purchases.

Come see our unique and traditional selections this December, we look forward to your visit.

Through December 31, 10:00am-5:00pm
Christmas Tours at The Gables

The House of the Seven Gables offers guests a special tour blending the unique history of the mansion with the little known history of Christmas in colonial Massachusetts. 

Through December 31, 10:00am-5:00pm
oliday Window Decorations
Stop by The House of the Seven Gables Museum Store to enjoy beautiful window decorations inspired by The Gables’ storied past.

December 5-31,

Settlement Tree
Support our modern settlement programs with the purchase of an ornament, handcrafted by Salem students, available from our unique tree in the Visitor Center.

December 11,

Home for the Holidays
All are welcome for an afternoon of cheer, crafts, and music at The Gables. Our Living History Lab will offer hands-on history, the Museum Store will be open for festive shopping, and Ferreira Foods will have a pop-up cafe with delicious treats available for purchase.
Each December, our Visitor Center becomes the host for the annual Settlement Tree. The tree shines with a variety of ornaments made by Salem Public School students.  These ornaments reflect the diversity of immigrant communities in our city and the variety of holiday traditions. 

The Settlement Tree will be on view for all to see beginning on December 5th, and an opening reception in the Visitor Center on
December 11, from 2:00pm-4:00pm will showcase the one-of-a-kind tree. All of the ornaments will be available for purchase. Proceeds support The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association and this tradition with Salem Public Schools art programs.

For more information, please visit
The House of the Seven Gables recently said goodbye to longtime Collections Care Specialist, Kristin Cunha, who had been with the organization for 17 years. She and her family left The Gables for an out of state job opportunity, and we wish them the best. We are continuing Kristin's hard work with the recent hiring of two temporary collections support staff.

Susan Baker and Zoe Quinn started their experience at The Gables at the end of November, and dove right in to the collection. While here, they will be inventorying the collection, creating new condition reports for all of the items, cleaning and re-housing objects, and working to make our collection accessible to researchers and the public. With years of combined experience, Susan and Zoe will create a professional standard for our extensive collection going forward. We are excited to have them on board.
When you do your holiday shopping on Amazon this year, use the link above and a percentage of your purchases will go towards The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association.
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