With Thanksgiving behind us, the holiday rush begins…
Instead of focusing on the usual hustle and bustle, why not experience a taste of the past this year with a visit to your local museum?
Most museums hold special events this time of year for families, adults, and children. While the focus usually includes some amount of learning, most events offer up fun at the same time!
Very few historic houses in America are not decked out for Christmas at this time of year. Depending on the era of the house, you may see an early 1800s “S of plenty” or a full-blown Victorian Christmas extravaganza!
Early Dutch settlers often decorated their holiday tables with an “S of plenty,” an “S” shaped roping of pine boughs decorated with nuts and fresh fruits like apples, oranges, and lemons. The festive appearance doubled as both a decoration and “party buffet” for holiday guests!
Christmas as we know it did not truly exist until the latter part of the Victorian era when decorated Christmas trees began to appear in every home. With more disposable income, people began buying holiday gifts for the first time. The grandest house museums – like The Biltmore in Asheville, NC – really do up the holidays. But almost everyone can find a prettily decorated historic site within a reasonable distance from their home.
Some of my most magical museum experiences have happened over the holidays. A trip to St. Marie Among the Iroquois (located in Liverpool, NY) on a snowy evening one December truly transported me back to 1650 when the French missionaries were living among the Native Americans. The combination of the interpreters in their black religious robes, the fires burning in each building, and the falling snowflakes created a very special museum experience for me.
Another “museum memory” that has stuck with me over the years was our trip to Mystic Seaport for their amazing Lantern Light Tours. Never in my life have I been more “sucked into the past” than on that night. The professional actors transported me from modern-day Connecticut to a 19th century whaling village on the Mystic River. The tour was set up so that we were “on our way to a party” with other villagers. With each stop, they asked us if we were going to the party. At the end of the evening, our group ended up at the festivities with all of the people we had “met” along the way! It was a truly enchanting evening.
Don’t let another year pass without visiting the treasures in your own backyard. Find out what your local museums have planned for the holidays and mark it on your calendar. You will be supporting the important mission of that museum, as well as spending some worthwhile time over the holidays, pondering the past.