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Old-fashioned Christmas festivals in West Virginia

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Two West Virginia forts turn back the clock to show how the early pioneers celebrated Christmas. The annual Christmas Festival at Fort Salem near Clarksburg depicts an Appalachian frontier holiday this weekend and again Saturday and next Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The candle-laden tree is lit each evening and costumed minstrels play music of the period on lutes and mandolins. Craftspeople perform traditional craft skills and period refreshments are served. Call (304) 782-5245.

Prickett's Fort near Fairmont was built in 1774 and served at one time as a trading post for trappers, hunters and farmers. The tradition of the trading post is carried on every holiday season with an "18th Century Market," which runs today, Saturday, Sunday and Dec. 15 and 16. An array of early American and traditional crafts are for sale, and traditional music and hot wassail and cookies are offered. Admission is free. Call (304) 363-3030.

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The Old Town historic district in Alexandria, Va., is the setting for the annual Christmas Candlelight Tour Friday and Saturday evenings from 7 to 9:30.

Tickets for the tour can be purchased at the Ramsay House Visitors Center, 221 King St., where a performing bagpiper serves as a reminder of Alexandria's Scottish heritage. The tour then proceeds to the Carlyle House, Boyhood Home of Robert E. Lee, the Lee-Fendall House and Gadsby's Tavern Museum. All these buildings will be decked in period Christmas finery and illuminated by candlelight. Entertainment at various sites includes madrigals and performances by opera singers and other musicians. Light refreshment will be served at Gadsby's Tavern.

Tickets cost $12 for adults, $5 for ages 6 to 17. Old Town trolleys will offer free transportation between sites. For information, call (703) 838-4200.

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The fifth annual Candlelight Christmas in Chadds Ford, Pa., will take place Friday evening from 5:30 to 10. A tour of four sites begins at Echo Valley Farm, a private 18th century residence, once featured on the cover of Colonial Homes magazine. Here you'll find a huge collection of antique Santas. Also on tour is Whitethorne, another 18th century house near Unionville, and the Barns-Brinton House, William Barns' Tavern, built in 1714. Here, decorations carry out the theme "The Twelve Days of Christmas," and guests can sample pear honey, beehive-oven baked bread, "maids of honor" and gingerbread "lords." "A Cold Winter's Night" at the Benjamin Ring House (Washington's headquarters during the Battle of Brandywine) offers living history vignettes depicting scenes in a Colonial home and samples of Colonial sweets. Tour participants will then be guided by lantern light across the Brandywine Battlefield by Revolutionary War soldiers. Soups and hot drinks can be purchased at the Visitors Center.

Tickets cost $8 for adults, $3 for children under 12. Candlelight Christmas signs will be posted as a guide to tour sites.

Chadds Ford is at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Route 202. For information, call (215) 388-7376.

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The Susquehanna River town of Marietta, Pa., opens its doors to the public during the 25th annual Christmas Candlelight Tour today from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. The tour includes eight restored houses, some public buildings and churches.

Additional features include an antique show, antique train display, horse and carriage rides, a Civil War encampment, holiday shop, caroling, classic films, holiday foods and a horse-drawn, 40-note calliope. Complimentary shuttle service will be available from parking areas to all tour sites. Tour tickets cost $8 and can be purchased aboard the shuttle bus.

Marietta is on Route 441. From York, Pa., take first exit off U.S. 30 after crossing the Susquehanna River. For information, call (717) 426-3407 or (717) 426-4462.

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Christmas festivities at Fort Frederick in Big Pool begin when Santa arrives by horse-drawn wagon for an Old Time Christmas celebration on Saturday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

A living history program will present life at the fort in the year 1758 with interpreters in period attire performing the daily chores. Then from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. lantern tours of the fort will be conducted by soldiers and other interpreters.

Visitors can enjoy refreshments at the fort's museum while listening to music by the Elizabethtown Recorders and David Karstead, who performs Irish and Scottish music on the Celtic harp. For children there will be horse-drawn wagon rides, crafts and visits with Santa in the Sutler Shop until 6 p.m.

Admission is free. For information, call (301) 842-2155.

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The Philadelphia Museum of Art is sponsoring its annual tour of seven historic houses in Fairmount Park through Dec. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each house is decorated in a scene from "The Nutcracker" ballet. The cafe and gift shop at the Horticultural Center are open during tour hours. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children.

The park trolley is available to transport visitors from house to house, departing every 10 minutes from the art museum and the visitors center at 16th Street and J. F. Kennedy Boulevard. The fare is $5. For information, call (215) 787-5449.

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As part of "Yuletide in Odessa," a holiday program, "Merry Christmas, Mr. Dickens," will be presented on Thursday evening in the Colonial town of Odessa, Del.

The program begins with a lecture on women in the stories of Charles Dickens at the Corbit-Calloway Library. It will be followed by a tour of the Wilson-Warner House and three other Winterthur properties. The Wilson-Warner House is decorated with scenes from Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Room settings include Scrooge's bedroom, his counting house and the Cratchit kitchen. Light refreshments will be served. The tour continues through Dec. 31. Admission is $3 and reservations are required.

Children's programs are scheduled on Wednesday, Saturday, next Sunday and Dec. 15 and 16. There will be Christmas crafts, parlor games and a visit with Santa. Admission is $3 and reservations are required.

For information, call (302) 378-4069.*

Woodlawn Plantation in Mount Vernon, Va., will host its annual holiday event, "A Woodlawn Christmas" on Friday and Saturday evenings from 7 to 10 and today and next Sunday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Guests will attend a 19th century holiday party, featuring humorous vignettes, choirs of carolers, musicians, a warming bonfire, refreshments in the formal dining room and libations in the Woodlawn Pub. If weather permits, caroling wagon rides will be offered both Sundays.

Admission is $6, free for children under 5. Reservations are suggested. Woodlawn is on U.S. 1 and Route 235 in Mount Vernon. For information, call (703) 780-4000.

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"Yuletide in Gettysburg, Pa.," will be celebrated next weekend with a number of activities. The first event will be a candlelight walk Friday evening. Three Wise Men will lead a procession to a live nativity at St. Francis Church, where participants will hear the story of the first Christmas and music by choral groups and handbell choirs.

Saturday's agenda includes breakfast with Santa, a free movie, "Colonial Children's Day," at the Dobbin House Tavern, a fine craft/jewelry show, and a Christmas house tour that night. Area chefs will offer their best desserts at a holiday dessert sampler on Sunday. Also featured are a silent auction and a show of holiday costumes around the world. A Christmas concert at 3 p.m. and Advent vesper recital at 5 p.m. conclude the weekend festivities. For information, call (717) 334-6274.

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