The Christmas season opens at Oatlands Plantation


November 13, 1994|By Dorothy Fleetwood | Dorothy Fleetwood,Contributing Writer

Ready or not, it's time for Christmas. Holiday celebrations already appear on this week's calendar. One of the region's first great houses to welcome the public to view its holiday decorations is Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg, Va. "Christmas at Oatlands" begins Saturday and continues through Dec. 30.

This year the mansion has changed its theme from a Victorian Christmas to one of the Edwardian period. The year is 1903, and electricity lights the world. Those who had electricity in their homes were proud of their modern convenience, so swags of lights replaced candles in holiday decorations.

Another fashion trend of that era was the "white tree," for which only white or silver ornaments were used. At Oatlands you will see a 12-foot tree decked with all-white icicles, cotton snow and silver pine cones. White paper chains and swags of lights are used throughout the mansion, along with mistletoe and kissing balls. The custom of hanging stockings from mantels got started in the early 1900s, so stockings will be hung in the nursery and the library.

Candlelight tours are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturdays. Costumed re-enactors will depict a typical Christmas Eve party as it was celebrated by the Virginia gentry. Guests will wear paper hats and use noise poppers, another custom of that era.

Daytime tours run 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $6. The Saturday candlelight tours with living history vignettes cost $8. Oatlands is closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day and Dec. 23-25. The mansion will reopen after Christmas, Dec. 26-30, from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

A property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Oatlands is six miles south of Leesburg on U.S. Route 15. For information, call (800) 752-6118 or (703) 777-3174.

'Holiday Happenings'

Santa Claus will arrive by boat in Historic Chesapeake City, where the season opens Saturday with "Holiday Happenings." The town will be festively decorated, and shops will offer refreshments.

Santa's arrival is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Pell Pier. From there he will make his way to Trinity Methodist Church to open the Christmas bazaar. Franklin Hall will be the site of a show by the Cecil County Arts Council, and here, too, regional artists and crafts people will show and sell their wares. Horse-drawn carriage rides will be available through town from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and, weather permitting, canal cruises will be offered on the Miss Claire.

During afternoon hours, walking tours of town will be available on the hour between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. from Franklin Hall. There will be activities for young people at Pell Gardens, and two of the town's historic inns, the Inn at the Canal and the Blue Max, will be open for tour from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Chesapeake City is at the top of the bay, just off Interstate 95 on Route 213 in Cecil County. Call (410) 885-2415.

'In Honor of Pocahontas'

Most Americans are familiar with the story of Pocahontas, the young American-Indian princess who saved the life of the English captain John Smith and later married another Englishman, John Rolfe. A "Royal Celebration in Honor of Pocahontas" is being held this week in Gloucester County, Va., in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of her birth.

The weeklong celebration culminates in a big event on Saturday. Native Americans, many of them descendants of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, are coming from all over the country. Nashville star Greg Rowles and singer Wayne Newton are expected to be there, along with many top production and creative people from Disney Productions. Disney plans to release an animated film about Pocahontas in 1995.

It is fitting that Gloucester County is the site of the celebration, since it was the original site of Werawocomoco, the main village of the Powhatan tribe. It was also where Chief Powhatan brought Capt. John Smith to be executed in 1607. His life was spared because of the pleadings by the chief's favorite daughter, Pocahontas. A year later Dutchmen built a house here for the chief. The chimney of that house can still be seen today.

Most of Saturday's activities will take place at Courthouse Circle on Main Street. The day's schedule includes a parade, Native-American crafts, exhibits, food and entertainment from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A life-sized statue of Pocahontas by noted sculptor Adolf Sehring will be dedicated at 9:30 a.m. in the court green. The dedication will be followed by the parade at 10:30 a.m. and a commemorative ceremony at 11:30 a.m. on the steps of the Gloucester school-board office on Main Street. The ceremony honors Pocahontas, John Rolfe and their descendants; Virginian Indian chiefs and tribes; and the celebration's honorary chairwoman, Shirley (Little Dove) Custalow McGowan, from the Mattaponi tribe. Ms. McGowan was the model for the character of Pocahontas in the Disney film. A preview of the film will be shown between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the Hillside Cinema on Route 14.

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