On the wooden deck of the Anne Arundel, an old Chesapeake Bay workboat, Marshall Blume cautiously eyed the shot glass containing a raw oyster drowned in spicy cocktail sauce.
The Villanova, Pa., man is no seafood novice -- he docks a boat in Annapolis -- but this was a bit different. "I've never done this," he said, gulping down the house favorite at Middleton Tavern in Annapolis.
"That's good," he exclaimed, after downing a beer chaser -- local brew, of course, Samual Middleton Pale Ale, straight from the Wild Goose Brewery in Cambridge, on the Eastern Shore.
Hundreds of people joined Mr. Blume to crisscross Annapolis' historic district yesterday, fighting a biting wintry wind for a one-day tour of yachts and historic homes decked out in holiday finery. The Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau sponsored the annual Holiday House & Yacht Tour, for which tourists paid $10 for advance tickets or $12 yesterday.
"It gives you the inside of Annapolis that you don't see all the time," said Patti Deterding, as she guided a tour through an apartment on Maryland Avenue. "You walk the streets all the time, but you get to peek inside today."
And while most of the boats at City Dock were yachts, including the Lady Anna, a charter boat that had a wreath made of clam shells hanging on its stateroom wall, the 30-year old Anne Arundel offered a glimpse of a more simple commercial fishing life.
Larry Thomas, who is preparing the 58-foot boat for corporate cruises, said, "It is a nice twist to get on a classic wooden boat."
Those on the tour found a wide variety of homes.
The Flag House Inn, on Randall Street, a bed and breakfast that opened in 1858, has been restored. People who walked over to Prince George Street found a classic Annapolis Federal home built in the 1840s that includes a doll collection.
At the Shiplap House on Pinkney Street, Joe Steen and his wife, Marje, still run a tavern that opened in 1715.
Back then, Christmas wasn't celebrated with trees and Santas and tinsel.
Just a few trinkets, including some pine branches and a "good luck" pineapple above the hearth, mark the onset of the holiday season. "In the 18th century, they didn't do a lot of decorating," said Mrs. Steen, who runs the Harp and Crown Tavern.
That changed over time, with Santa Claus replacing Father Christmas as the season's gift-giving representative.
At their Maryland Avenue home, Joyce Kaminkow and Larry Vincent showcased a tree and candles. The 2,400-foot apartment, above The Annapolis Country Store, was built in the 1920s and has been restored over the past 16 years.
And true to turn-of-the-century custom, the owner of the country store still lives in the apartment above. "We're one of the old-timers now," Ms. Kaminkow said, as strangers filled her home, poking into corners and gazing into bedrooms. The home features wooden floors throughout most of it, and the kitchen has glass cupboard doors, with a sign above proclaiming, "Provisions."
The tour not only offered food -- hot apple cider, bread and cake at most stops -- but gave tourists and residents alike a historic Christmas perspective that, in many respects, lives on today.
"We are trying to learn more about our town of Annapolis," said Alec Barton, who lives in Sherwood Forest, a community near the capital. He, his wife and two friends huddled on a corner near the State House studying a map. "We know a little bit," he said, "but not enough."