Hagley Museum presents a 19th-century Christmas


December 13, 1992|By Dorothy Fleetwood | Dorothy Fleetwood,Staff Writer

"Christmas at the Hagley," through Jan. 3, 1993, is a great occasion for a family outing. Here, on the site of the original du Pont mills, estate and gardens in Wilmington, the Hagley Museum and Library present a complete picture of a 19th-century industrial community at holiday time.

The tour begins at the Henry Clay Mill, where you can see a model of the first diesel electric train in service, built in 1934. The next stop is the Millwright Shop, featuring operating steam models, such as a miniature Ferris wheel powered by a steam engine. Then there's a tour of Eleutherian Mills, the 1803 du Pont family home. The mansion is decorated with ropes of pine draped along the stairway, mantel swags, old-fashioned toys tucked under a Victorian Christmas tree, and the dining room table set for a Twelfth Night party. Tours are offered daily (except Christmas Day and Dec. 31) from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The workers' community on Blacksmith Hill is open every weekend in December, Dec. 28-30 and Jan. 1. Here you can see a more modest Christmas celebration at the home of a millworker. The tree is adorned with handmade paper chains and magazine cut-outs, and toys include dolls, checkers and dominoes. Daytime admission is $9.75 for adults; $7.50 for seniors and students; $3.50 for ages 6 to 14; free for under 6.

Three evenings of candlelight tours are scheduled Dec. 21-23 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. A bus will take visitors through the property to the du Pont home for a tour and music by carolers. Refreshments will be served in the first du Pont office building after the tour. Admission is $9 for adults; $5 for ages 14 and under. Reservations are required. Use the museum entrance off state Route 141 in Wilmington. For information, call (302) 658-2400, Ext. 259, weekdays.

Holiday traditions re-enacted

At the Museum of American Frontier Culture in Staunton, Va., visitors will learn about holiday traditions in Germany, Ireland and England during the 17th and 18th centuries. At that time Christmas was just one in a series of month-long celebrations honoring certain saints and seasonal customs.

When the Puritans came to power in England during the 17th century, feasting and merriment were thought to be excessive, and festivities were banned. In 18th-century Germany it was a custom for masked children to knock on the doors of their neighbors, recite rhymes and hope to receive a treat. St. Nicholas rewarded good little children with sweets, but the bad ones received switches from the "Belznickel."

These and other customs are brought to life at the museum's four farmsteads every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Dec. 31 (except Christmas and New Year's days). In addition, Lantern Tours allow visitors a rare opportunity to see the museum by candlelight today, Tuesday, Thursday, next Sunday, Dec. 22 and 27. Tours are conducted every half-hour between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Interpreters re-enact holiday traditions of the period at each of the farms. The program also includes seasonal music, entertainment and refreshments. Reservations are required. Admission for both day and evening tours is $5 for adults; $2.50 for children.

The museum is off Interstate 81 at Exit 222. For information, call (703) 332-7850.

Wassail in McLean

Celebrate the winter solstice at an 18th-century Christmas wassail next Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., weather permitting, in the orchard on 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 participate in the ancient ritual of warding off evil spirits that threaten next year's apple crop. Participants can chant, join an apple tree dance and sing 18th-century carols. Steaming cider will be served. Admission is $3 for adults; $1.50 for seniors and children ages 3 to 12. The farm is at 6310 Georgetown Pike in McLean. For information, call (703) 442-7557.

Valley Forge illuminated

At dusk on Saturday, Valley Forge National Historical Park in Valley Forge, Pa., will be lighted with 12,000 luminarias. The park will be open for visitors to drive through from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. (expect heavy traffic). The visitor center will be open until 8 p.m. Admission is free.

The event launches the park's centennial in the coming year. It was in 1893 that Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Pattison signed the bill establishing Valley Forge as a public park in memory of George Washington and the soldiers of the Continental Army, who camped there during the harsh winter of 1777-1778. For information, call (215) 783-1077.

Tudor Hall open house

Tudor Hall in Bel Air will hold its annual candlelight Christmas open house Friday through next Sunday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Hostesses will discuss the traditions of a Victorian Christmas and tell stories of the theatrical Booth family, who once lived at Tudor Hall. Admission is $2. The house is off state Route 22

(Churchville Road) east of Bel Air. For information, call (410) 838-0466.

Landis Valley Christmas

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