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Brandywine Valley: floral and folky holiday treats

THE BALTIMORE SUN

There's more holiday magic around the region this week -- displays that may have been missed in the rush to Christmas and a few post-holiday events as well. How about a trip to the Brandywine Valley? There you'll find Longwood Gardens, the Brandywine River Museum and Winterthur Museum and Gardens, all within a short distance of each other.

A "Brandywine Christmas" can be seen through Jan. 6 at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pa. This traditional holiday display has appeal for all ages with decorated trees, model trains, antique dolls and children's book illustrations and puppets by Tony Sarg. A giant Christmas tree that reaches the museum's second floor is decorated with "critter" ornaments, constructed out of natural materials and depicting Abe Lincoln, Betsy Ross, Ben Franklin and other American notables. More "critter" ornaments adorn the smaller trees that fill the main area of the first floor. Model trains, some dating to 1915, take over the entire second floor and the third floor gallery features Ann Wyeth McCoy's huge collection of antique dolls displayed in winter settings and an exhibit of "Tony Sarg's Pictures and Puppets."

Admission is $4 for adults, $2.50 for seniors, $2 for students age 6 and over. Regular daily hours of 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. will be extended until 8 p.m. from Dec. 26 to 30. The museum is on U.S. 1, just west of Pennsylvania Route 100 in Chadds Ford. For information, call (215) 459-1900 or (215) 388-7601.

* Winterthur Museum and Gardens draws thousands of people each year to its "Yuletide at Winterthur" exhibit, which runs through Dec. 30. More than 20 rooms are decorated to depict holiday celebrations of an earlier America. Room settings include a Mount Vernon dinner party, a Yuletide meal at an 18th century manor house on Maryland's Eastern Shore, a Virginia hunt breakfast, a Victorian Christmas morning, a Pennsylvania German Christmas, an 18th century Hanukkah celebration in Rhode Island and a Twelfth Night party.

Another display at Winterthur illustrates the evolution of the Christmas tree from a small early tree trimmed with cookies and apples to a ceiling-high tree dressed in the elaborate Victorian manner.

Tours are conducted every half hour from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m., Sundays. The museum is closed on Mondays and Dec. 24 and 25. Admission is $9 for adults, $4.50 for under 17. Reservations are suggested. The museum is on Route 52, six miles northwest of Wilmington. For information, call (800) 448-3883 or (302) 428-1411.

* A relatively new event and one that has developed a large following is the free Candlelight Church tour in Frederick, held on the day after Christmas from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The self-guided tour of 10 historic churches and a synagogue includes some historic places. Among them is St. John's, the oldest consecrated Catholic church in the nation, and All Saints Episcopal, listed as one of the famous churches in America, as well as the Frederick Presbyterian Church, which served as a hospital during the Civil War, and Beth Sholom, a 1917 synagogue.

The churches will be decorated with hosts on hand to answer questions. Musical presentations include a chime-ringing demonstration at Trinity Chapel, a harpist at Calvary United Methodist, organ music at Frederick Presbyterian and choir performances at Evangelical Reformed Church, where a Christmas putz of 70 miniature figures is another special feature. Hospitality rooms will be open in Calvary United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran and Beth Sholom Synagogue. A brochure can be picked up on tour day from the Tourism Council Visitor Center at 19 E. Church St., which will be open on tour day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. For information, call (301) 663-8687.

* Every year on Christmas Day crowds of people flock to Washington Crossing Historic Park at Washington Crossing, Pa., see the re-enactment of Washington Crossing the Delaware. This will be the 38th annual re-enactment of Washington's successful crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Night 1776, which led to victories at Trenton and Princeton and turned the tide of the Revolutionary War.

The event begins at 1:30 p.m. with Washington addressing his troops followed by a parade of the troops along the river bank past McConkey Ferry Inn (Washington's headquarters) to the crossing site. At 2 p.m. "General Washington" and his men will embark for the New Jersey shore aboard reproductions of four Durham boats.

The park buildings will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a documentary film on the crossing will be shown at noon and 1 p.m. The re-enactment is held around the Memorial Building of the park on Route 32, one block north of Route 532. Admission is free. For information, call (215) 493-4076.

* Ephrata Cloister in Ephrata, Pa., will host its annual Christmas Candlelight Tours Friday to next Sunday.

The tours present a glimpse of life at the cloister during the 18th century, with interpreters acting the roles of the brothers and sisters of that era. Conducted every half hour between 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., the tours are presented in the usual first person manner, which allows vistors to take part in the scenario. Refreshments are served after the tour.

Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for ages 6 to 17. Reservations are required. The cloister is at the junction of Routes 322 and 272 in Ephrata. For information, call (717) 733-4811 or (717) 733-6600.

* The holiday season in the nation's capital offers activities for all ages. A Holiday Celebration at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is scheduled from Wednesday to next Monday. The celebration focuses on the many ways Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the New Year are celebrated in this country and around the world through music, storytelling, crafts and food. A Jamaican storyteller, a Spanish flamenco singer, gospel groups and jug band musicians are among the many performers during the five-day event. A daily Kwanzaa program combines music, poetry, storytelling and instrument making demonstrations. Crafts, such as Jewish paper cuts, Swedish straw ornaments and Moravian and Filipino paper stars will be demonstrated, along with preparation of various holiday ethnic foods. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the museum is on Constitution Avenue Northwest, between 12th and 14th streets. Admission is free. Call (202) 357-2700.

"Hometown Holidays," theme of this year's Poinsettia Show at the U.S. Botanic Garden on the Mall, features a variety of American holiday traditions and thousands of brilliant poinsettias and companion plants. The show is open daily through Jan. 6 from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Admission is free. Call (202) 226-4082.

White House Candlelight Tours will be conducted Wednesday to Friday between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the decorated State Rooms, as holiday music is performed by choirs and bell ringers. Admission is free. Lines form at the East Gate on East Executive Avenue between the White House and the Treasury Building. Call (202) 619-7222.

* The 13th annual Festival of Lights, Trees and Music continues through Jan. 6 at the Washington Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Kensington.

Temple grounds are lit with thousands of lights, and inside the Visitors Center is a display of 14 trees decorated in biblical themes. Programs of Christmas music are presented at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 each evening and a live Nativity scene can be seen in the temple parking lot between 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. through Jan. 1. Admission is free.

Take Exit 33A off the Capital Beltway toward Kensington and turn right on Beach Drive and left on Stoneybrook Drive. For information, call (301) 587-0144.

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