Sure, you could do your regular Christmas festivities around town: Go cut down a Christmas tree, visit Santa Claus, design your Christmas card. Or, you could travel back in time to the 19th century and learn the origins of many of those traditions.
“I think far and away it's one of the most popular events we do,” said Ken Johnston, director of education at the history center. “It's easily the best attended and it’s a really good mix of children and adults.”
He said a few hundred people come out each year to learn a little history about the Christmas traditions that have become so popular in the United States and around the world, as well as have a little fun with some hands-on activities.
“Our Victorian Christmas is our way of showcasing all the elements of our modern celebration of Christmas,” Johnston said. “The things we think are this way because they’ve always been this way actually have their roots in the Victorian era, and specifically with Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert.”
Johnston said many of the things they did in the 19th century bled into the homes of many people in England as well as homes in the U.S.
“It's almost like when a famous person does something, people copy them,” Johnston said, laughing.
The Christmas tree, for example, Johnston said was a German tradition, but not very widespread until Queen Elizabeth and Prince Albert started putting them in their homes and magazines began writing about them.
Something similar happened with Christmas cards.
“They were also very famous for sending cards to their extended family, because they had a very large extended royal family,” Johnston said. “And then one year, an enterprising fellow in England decided, 'The royals send these cards, so I’ll print out some cards that are premade and people can buy them and send them.'”
While families will get the chance to learn all of those things about the history of Christmas and the traditions that come from the Victorian era, they’ll also get to have a little fun with crafts and activities.
“We're making Christmas crackers, they’re little popping paper ornaments,” Johnston said. “And we have Victorian Christmas card templates so people can do their own Christmas cards, we have readings of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,’ we have Victorian dance demonstrations and we have singalongs.”
And of course, no Christmas celebration would be complete without Santa Claus. Before he takes a ride down Green Street, he’ll be at the history center ready for photos with everyone who stops by.
“Our mission is to bring the past to the people so they can understand why they do some of the things they do, and what better time to do that than Christmas, when people are out celebrating and there is emphasis on family traditions?” Johnston said. “We try to really harness those old traditions, show how a lot of our modern stuff came from them and just have a good time.”