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Christmas in Newport, Rhode Island | 30 Days of Holiday Magic

The Breakers, Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s 138,300-square-foot tribute to excess, is dripping with Christmas trees, garlands, and giant kissing balls made of poinsettias. And in case you missed the point, there’s gold everywhere. It’s hard to say what’s more eye-catching: the 50×50-foot Great Hall; the 3,500-pound bronze Tiffany lamp over the billiard table; the 12-foot Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the formal dining room; or the mansion’s namesake, the dark sea breaking beyond the expanse of lawn and a spectacular 30-foot drop to the water.

In the ballroom at The Elms, a brass quartet is playing “Amazing Grace” in the shadow of a floor-to-ceiling white poinsettia tree. Once on the brink of being demolished, this relatively modest 1901 mansion makes a luscious impression with delicate shades of white, cream, and beige, and a conservatory that was the garden room in Newport back then. After a day of blowing winter cold, the palms are a heady sight, and the steamy scent of lilies in December is intoxicating.

But it’s time to hit the road back to the 21st century, fortified by a weekend of warm comfort for cold travelers. In this town that celebrates giving for an entire month, it’s easy to conjure up Jimmy Stewart, stumbling through the ruins of Pottersville, finding his way back to the true meaning of Christmas. Or that young Dickens hero, Tiny Tim, whose words communicate our shared yearning for community. It’s here. It’s waiting. And we can create it. We’re all important, “every one.”

Roots of Newport’s Christmas

It started as a movement toward simplicity. In the early 1970s, local resident Ruth Myers wanted to get away from the commercialism of Christmas. At a time when bright multicolored lights and street-spanning garlands dominated, her idea was to light the town with clear bulbs, simulating candlelight. And so a small committee gathered and the idea for Christmas in Newport was born.

Today, 1,500 volunteers help this nonprofit organization raise thousands of dollars for a variety of charities. And although the event has far outstripped its humble origins, its essential guidelines remain profoundly simple: Calendar events must be traditional, noncommercial, and oriented around the holiday. Programs are free of charge or benefit a nonprofit or charity. And Newport’s merchants and homeowners still uphold the tradition of decorating with simple white lights.

For seasonal events, check the Christmas in Newport calendar: 401-849-6454;

More about Newport: Touro Synagogue


Newport is famous for its hospitality. Join Yankee as we take in the sights and tour this charming waterfront city, where Colonial history meets Gilded Age elegance. Here are a few of our favorite stops along the way. For more information on lodging, dining, shopping, and area activities, contact the Newport County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau: 800-976-5122;

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Updated Thursday, October 8th, 2009

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2 Responses to Christmas in Newport, Rhode Island | 30 Days of Holiday Magic

  1. Pat Sullivan November 3, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    Wonderful description of Newport. Thank you.

  2. Yvonne Wall December 7, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    The magic of the internet – a virtual visit! I enjoyed it very much. Thank you.

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