Friday, October 30, 2009

Christmas at Greenfield Village: Holiday Homes Tour

Enjoying a warm by the sitting room fireplace in Firestone Farm
Just as nice but not nearly as popular as the Holiday Nights event, the Holiday Homes Tour at Greenfield Village was always a wonderful opportunity for the fan of history and of Christmas to visit the Village in a much more subdued manner, having the opportunity of seeing and studying the celebrations of Christmas past more intently during the daylight hours.
The Birthplace of Henry Ford

Christmas 1876 at the Ford Home
Although during the daytime Holiday Home Tours were are no outdoor vendors hawking their wares or ice-skaters as during Holiday Nights, the homes nevertheless were beautifully decorated in the era of which they represented, and the ability to ask questions in a much more relaxed atmosphere, without throngs of people waiting their turn gave the visitor the chance to learn about Christmas past more in depth than during the evening Holiday Nights.

Sarah Jordan's Boarding House is decorated for an 1870's Christmas

The Firestone Farm is ready for Christmas - inside and out!

Firestone Farm during the mid-1880's Christmas Season proved to be very festive indeed!

The Adams Home's Christmas Tree
It was also during the day visits that one was able to stay longer in each home and truly get the feel of what Christmas actually was like, without having the long lines behind you waiting their turn. If you were lucky and visited when the afternoon skies were dark and dreary, the oil lamps and candles were usually lit and would give an even cozier experience.
All of the same structures that were open during Holiday Nights were also open during the Holiday Homes Tour. In fact, there was a beautifully decorated home - the Firestone Farm - that one who only visited during the daytime Holiday Homes Tour was able to see, for it was closed during Holiday Nights.

Sadie treats the visitors in Firestone Farm to period Christmas music on the 19th century pump organ. This is something that does not happen during the evening Holiday Nights since the Firestone Farm is only open during the daytime hours.
On a personal note, I have visited the Village for both the Holiday Nights and Holiday Homes Tour multiple times each Christmas Season and it had always been a wonderful experience - different enough to attend each.
Food was of the utmost importance in an 1860's Christmas celebration, as you can see here at the Susquehanna Plantation (above).
Going back to the 1820's at the Noah Webster Home (below) we can see that even then the most festive part of the Christmas Season was food.



...I was informed in 2009 that beginning in 2010 the Holiday Homes Tour would no longer take place, for it was said they simply could not afford to remain open with so few patrons visiting during the day. As was written in a response to a letter I wrote expressing my disappointment in their decision:

While I understand your being upset with the fact that we will close the Village earlier for daytime hours next year, we find ourselves, like all companies in this economic climate, faced with tough decisions in order to maintain our budget and stay viable.

I understand your enjoyment of the village in December, but reducing those expenses means we don’t have to stop having new exhibits in the Museum, don’t have to cut any of our summer programs in the Village and, hopefully, don’t have to cut staff.

The letter writer went on to explain that they will have new events for the upcoming year in hopes of increasing the amount of visitors.

The Civil War soldiers play a period game of the 1860's era. It's a much more relaxed atmosphere during the daytime Holiday Homes Tour

My opinion: Although I understand the state of the economy at this time, I must vehemently disagree with the closing of the Village during the daytime hours during the month of December, thus doing away with the wonderful Holiday Homes Tour. It was always a wonderful opportunity for visitors to experience Christmas Past much more intimately than the Holiday Nights event. I believe if the daytime event was advertised and promoted more, the visitor traffic would increase dramatically.
Here's hoping that the future will find the Village once again open throughout the month of December.

A few visitors warm up at the fire near the McGuffey School. No, they were not part of any presentation - these folks enjoy visiting Greenfield Village at Christmas time while wearing their period clothing

The Wright Brothers home & shop along festive Main Street

Inside the Wright Home, decorated as it was Christmas 1903

A Christmas scene in front of the Adams House


On a final note here is a snippet from youtube on decorating your home in a 19th century style:
Christmas Decorating



Chandra said...

As a paid interpreter, I can see both sides of this story. I feel for the museum itself that is struggling to keep it's doors open and doing it the best way it can. I also feel for you, the patron, who feels that it should keep it's doors open. We have similar problems here at Hale Farm. Though nothing was cut from our programing this year, small things happen that feel unfair to us interpreters, but essentially help the farm in the big picture. Example: we just finshed our Lantern Tours in December, which is a night time walking tour with a set schedule. Groups go through homes and must stick to a route. All interpreters must be in their homes to set up 1 hour before the first group is released. So, those of us near the beginning of the route see all the groups early, while those working in the houses at the end of the tour are sitting in their houses waiting for them to get there, but getting paid to do so. Once a house has seen it's last group they must close up and leave, even though that last group is still finishing it's tour in diff. buildings. We don't get to sit there until everyone has left, balancing out the employees who sat there and waited for the first groups to reach them on the route. This saves the farm money on our paychecks, but felt very unfair to us employees at the beginning of the program route. We did the same amount of actual work, but others got paid for more time becuase they had to sit there before they could start. I hope this made sense, it's almost 3 am!

Historical Ken said...

Yes, Chandra, it makes sense and I do understand the museum's plight.
My complaint - maybe it didn't come off the way I hoped - was for the museum to advertise their day programs. Their Holiday Nights event had major advertising - radio, television, etc., where the Holiday Homes Tour got nary a thing.
Anyhow, I do appreciate hearing from an interpreter's point of view. Thanks for sharing.