Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Victorian Christmas

I've written about the candelight tour of Pottsgrove Manor this Sunday, but there's is another Christmas tour you can take the day before which sounds just as cool and is, once again, the property of Montgomery County and available to us because of the foresight of those who preserved it.

It is at Pennypacker Mills in Schwenksville.

The Victorian Christmas Open House will be held on Saturday, Dec. 8 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

The event is free and includes a number of special elements.

A Visit with Santa

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a visit with Santa Claus! He’ll listen intently to everyone’s wishes and send them off with a candy cane afterward. Bring a camera for a one-of-a-kind picture that will make a great Christmas card!

The Sounds of Music

Experience the music of the Christmas season with the ringing of bells! Enjoy the Christmas music of the Limerick Chapel’s “Ring of Praise” bell choir on the mansion porch as they capture the spirit of the season for all to enjoy. 

At 5 p.m, the Montgomery County Community College Chamber Choir will sing Christmas songs to entertain everyone as they approach the mansion.

The Museum Shop at Pennypacker Mills
A Home Dressed in Victorian Splendor

Of course, the star of the tour is the house itself.

Delight in walking through a beautifully decorated home, resplendent in shimmering gold and silver ornaments, ribbon flowing through garlands, striking centerpieces that mix the colors of nature with the striking embellishments that only the Victorians could imagine, all enveloped in the glow of oil lamps. 
Stop at each room as interpretive guides share fascinating details about Christmas one-hundred years ago, before there was electricity in many homes. See how the Pennypacker family used the shine of Dresden ornaments, the shimmer of cut glass and swirling glass icicles, and the richness of holiday colors throughout their welcoming home.

Discover the simple cedar Christmas tree, which has been cut from the property. Beautifully decorated with imported, hand-painted glass ornaments, gleaming glass icicles, shiny beaded garland, and memorable homemade ornaments.

Family and Friends

Living historians await guests at the front door and inside the rooms at the Pennypacker mansion, providing visitors with a glimpse of the social history of the holidays. Wrapping presents, toasting the holidays, singing along with the music box, and performing servant duties add a meaningful element to the atmosphere of this special night.

A Yuletide Dinner 

See how the Pennypackers dined on turkey and all the trimmings. At thirty-two cents per pound, turkey was considered an expensive holiday treat for most families. The holiday décor reflects the opulent decorations of the Victorian Era with shiny ribbon, bowls of fruit, and candelabras that added a luminescent glow to the room.

A Child’s Wishes
The second floor guest area hosts a “putz,” a Middle Eastern landscape with a nativity scene and the three wise men is on display. 

In many homes, the wise men would be placed on the opposite side of the room from the putz and each week children would move them closer to the manger scene until they “arrived” on Christmas Eve. 

In one bedroom, find what children wished for in the 1900s: a porcelain doll, dollhouse, rocking horse, teddy bear, tin toys, and a child’s tea service. Long stockings are filled with small presents for children to discover. Christmas candy in many forms including clear toy candy, ribbon and rock candy, candy canes, and marzipan are some of the traditional treats that families shared during the holidays.

Pennypacker Mills is located at 5 Haldeman Road in Schwenksville. 

For information and directions, call 610-287-9349 or visit the Pennypackers Mills page at

Pennypacker Mills is operated by the Montgomery County Department of Assets and Infrastructure, Parks and Heritage Services Division. The site offers year-round guided tours, education programs, changing exhibits, seasonal events, and craft workshops.

Click here for information at the site throughout the year.

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