A 19th century Christmas as the du Ponts knew it


December 16, 1990|By Dorothy Fleetwood

Holiday traditions of the 19th century are highlighted this month at the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington. "Christmas at the Hagley" looks back on the holiday celebrations of the first du Pont family at their home, Eleutherian Mills. The grand staircase in the entrance hall is adorned with ribbons and greens; a Victorian Christmas tree in the parlor is surrounded by dolls, miniature furniture and other 19th century toys; and a display of old musical instruments and a "Christmas harp" fashioned from greens and strung with cranberries demonstrates the importance of music to the du Pont family.

Another holiday tradition popular throughout the 19th century was the Twelfth Night celebration, which marked the time when the Three Wise Men arrived at the stable bearing gifts for the Christ Child. The du Pont dining room is set for a Twelfth Night dessert with displays of preserved fruits, jellies, creams and cakes.

"Christmas at the Hagley" can be viewed daily (except Dec. 25) through Dec. 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $6.50 for seniors and students, $3 for ages 6 to 14, free for children under 6.

Evening candlelight tours will be conducted on Wednesday, Thursday and Dec. 26 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The evenings feature caroling and refreshments and reservations are required. Admission is $8 for adults, $3.50 for 14 and under.

Enter the museum from Buck Road East, off Route 100. For information, call (302) 658-2400.

The Hagley's workers' community at Blacksmith Hill reflects the more modest celebrations of the mill families. Blacksmith Hill is open every weekend during December and Dec. 26-28. Visitors will receive complimentary popcorn and tea.


The 32nd annual Christmas at Landis Valley is scheduled Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Landis Valley Museum near Lancaster, Pa.

A tour of selected museum buildings bedecked with traditional wreaths and greenery begins at 6 p.m. Among the buildings open for tour are the Landis Valley's Tavern, the Victorian Landis House, the Textile Processes building and the Visitor Center. There is an exhibit of antique Christmas ornaments, and several Christmas trees are trimmed with 1800s-style ornaments. About 6:45 p.m. there will be a short reading from the Scriptures, followed by carol singing around a bonfire. The Moravian Trombone Choir will participate in the carol sing and mulled cider and cookies will be served. The tour of buildings continues until 8:30 p.m.

Admission is free, but visitors are asked to bring donations for the Lancaster Food Bank. This event will be held regardless of weather and participants are advised to wear warm clothing and to bring a flashlight.

The museum is two miles north of Lancaster on Route 272 (Oregon Pike), a marked exit off U.S. 30. For information, call (717) 569-0401.


In recent weeks the "Hanging of the Green" has been under way at Belle Grove Plantation, a property of the National Historic Trust, in the Shenandoah Valley near Middletown, Va. Members of 13 neighboring garden clubs have been hard at work decorating the interior hallways, reception rooms and private family rooms of this 18th century manor house.

Belle Grove's Christmas Candlelight tours started yesterday and continue through next Sunday. Entertainers, including a storyteller, guitarist, woodwind quartet and other musicians are scheduled to perform in the upstairs parlor each evening. Downstairs, open-hearth cooking demonstrations are held in the Old Winter kitchen. Each guest is offered complimentary spiced tea and cookies.

Hours are 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. Belle Grove is one mile south of Middletown on U.S. 11 near the intersection of Interstate 66 and Interstate 81. For information, call (703) 869-2028.

George Washington Birthplace National Monument a Washington's Birthplace, Va., admits the public without charge to its annual Christmas Open House today. Extended hours from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. allow visitors the rare opportunity of seeing the site by candlelight.

The Memorial House is trimmed in the Colonial manner with greens and wreaths and a musician plays the spinet in the parlor. The park's historic area is also decked out for the holidays and here you'll find fireplace cooking, spinning, blacksmithing and ox driving demonstrations. Cider and cookies will be served in the Visitor Center.

The park is 38 miles east of Fredericksburg, Va., via Route 3 and Popes Creek Road. For information, call (804) 224-1732.

Celebrate the Winter Solstice at an 18th Century Christmas Wassail today from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (weather permitting) in the orchard at the Claude Moore Colonial Farm at Turkey Run in McLean, Va.

Guests are asked to bring an old pot to bang, bells, whistles or other noisemakers so they can take part in the ancient ritual to ward off evil spirits as insurance for a good apple crop in the coming year. Participants can join in an apple tree dance and sing 18th century Christmas carols as warm refreshment are served.

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