People visiting the village of Edgartown this weekend may feel as if they’ve stepped through a magic portal into a world of Christmas past that is one part Charles Dickens novel and one part Frank Capra movie.

With the return of Christmas in Edgartown, a longtime tradition that had largely faded until recently, there will be children jingle-belling, marshmallows for toasting and much mistletoe-ing.

So be of good cheer — because as organizers of the holiday extravaganza will tell you, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

“There’s nothing better than a New England Christmas. And if you’re into the holidays, you’re going to get your fill this weekend in Edgartown,” said Deborah Westervelt, chairman of Christmas in Edgartown.

There will be Christmas cookies and Christmas teas, a holiday fiddle and the lighting of trees. There will be a gingerbread workshop and a carol of bells, a breakfast with Santa and a gaggle of elves.

So if you’re the type who can’t get your fill of candy canes, red-nosed reindeer and Charlie Brown holiday specials, there should be more than enough for that holiday fix in old Edgartown this weekend.

It wasn’t long ago that the Christmas in Edgartown tradition appeared to be a faded event.

Under the direction of the Edgartown Board of Trade, the event was a holiday staple that provided a year-end boost for town businesses and a community celebration.
But when the board began to unravel in the late 1990s, Christmas in Edgartown began a gradual decline.

Although the board technically continued to exist, membership dwindled and the group began to meet less frequently until it finally disbanded in 2002.

The celebration continued under the guidance of a handful of volunteers, although it lost its sparkle. The event reached a low point a few years ago when the annual parade had shrunk to a handful of floats and several people wearing Santa hats.

“It got pretty lean there for a while. There wasn’t much to look at or do, and people just stopped coming. It was kind of sad,” Ms. Westervelt said.

Fast forward to the summer of 2004 when a group of determined business owners reformed the board of trade and launched an aggressive campaign to revitalize the downtown. In the past two years, the board has worked to improve the streetscapes and harborfront and encourage businesses to remain open year-round.

The group has launched an interactive Web site and helped organize a number of community events. And the board of trade now boasts a thriving membership of over 150 Edgartown businesses.

When the board reformed, members agreed to breathe new life into the sagging Christmas in Edgartown celebration.

“It’s not just back, it’s better than ever,” said Christina Cook, owner of Christina Gallery and the secretary for the board of trade. Ms. Cook said the event saw a marked improvement last year, the first year under the newly revitalized board of trade, although the event will really hit its stride this year with a jam-packed schedule of events.

The celebration kicks off with the Evening of Enchantment at Donaroma’s Nursery on Friday evening and will conclude with a children’s treasure hunt Sunday afternoon.

The three-day event will also include the lighting of the Edgartown lighthouse Friday evening, the Christmas parade from upper to lower Main street Saturday morning and the 22nd annual great chowder contest Saturday afternoon.

“It’ll be hard to walk around Edgartown this weekend and not have a smile on your face,” said Kristin Allen, a co-owner of the Shiverick Inn and a member of the board of trade.

All week Ms. Allen and her business partners Bryan Freehling and Paul Irving Weiss have been busy decorating the Shiverick Inn with garland, ribbons and pine boughs.

“If you were to paint the perfect scene of Christmas you couldn’t start with a better pallet than Edgartown. There aren’t many places left like this — most of the world has changed but this Island and this town has largely stayed the same,” she said.