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Hagley Museum re-creates 19th-century Christmas


"Christmas at Hagley" is a view of a 19th-century holiday at the original du Pont mills and estate near Wilmington. Tours run daily through Jan. 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., giving visitors an opportunity to see Hagley's 240-acre property festively decorated for the holidays.

At Eleutherian Mills, the 1803 du Pont family home, pine roping winds up the sweeping stairway. Hand-made decorations are used extensively and adorn the Victorian Christmas tree in the parlor. Also featured at the mansion is a collection of lace, including bonnets dating from 1815, a parasol, a Victorian neck piece and Belgian war lace made during World War I.

One of the tour-stops is the 19th-century machine shop, where you can see demonstrations of steam toys. The holiday exhibit, "The Magic of Miniature," at the Henry Clay Mill Gallery features toy trains and an operating HO-scale model railroad display of the Henry Clay Mill industrial complex circa 1895-1915.

On weekends and from Dec. 27 to Jan. 1 (except Dec. 31) the Gibbons House will be open for visitors to see holiday traditions of a 19th-century millworker's family. Three candlelight evening tours are scheduled tomorrow, Tuesday and Dec. 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. During the tour the Hagley Carolers will entertain with songs of the season. Tickets cost $9 for adults; $5 for ages 14 and under. Reservations are required.

Other holiday tours are included in the regular admission of $9.75 for adults; $7.50 for senior citizens and students; $3.50 for ages 6 to 14; free for under 6.

The Hagley Museum is on Route 141 in Wilmington. For information, call (302) 658-2400 (weekdays).

Crossing the Delaware

Between 5,000 and 8,000 people leave their cozy homes on Christmas Day to attend the annual Washington crossing re-enactment at Washington Crossing Historic Park, Pa. This is the 41st year for the re-enactment, which commemorates the Christmas night in 1776 when Gen. George Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River and went on to defeat the British at Trenton and Princeton.

At 1 p.m., more than 120 re-enactors will gather on the banks of the Delaware River. The re-enactment begins with Washington's address to his troops followed by the march along the riverbank past McConkey Ferry Inn (Washington's headquarters) to the crossing site. Washington and his men will then board four Durham boats, exact replicas of those used in 1776, and row to the New Jersey shore. The re-enactment should conclude about 3:30 p.m.

Some of the park buildings will be open, and a documentary film on the crossing will be shown at the visitor center at noon, 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. Cider will be served. Admission is free. Visitors should to arrive between noon and 12:30 p.m. Enter the park at Route 32 north of Route 532. Call (215) 493-4076.

Ephrata Cloister

Ephrata Cloister in Ephrata, Pa., will hold its annual Christmas Candlelight Tours next Sunday and Dec. 28, 29, 30 and Jan. 2. Tour-goers can learn about the cloister's history as student historians present first-person interpretations.

This year's tour concentrates on the year 1743, when construction of a new building on cloister grounds caused concern in the outside community. The Colonial governor called for volunteers to visit the cloister to investigate its religious practices. During tours visitors will meet some of the characters who were involved in its building and others who lived in it.

The tour visits five buildings. Afterward, hot chocolate and cookies will be served. Tours leave from the visitor center on the half hour between 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Space is limited, and reservations are required. Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for seniors; $4 for ages 6 to 17. The cloister is at the junction of U.S. 322 and Route 272 in Ephrata. Call (717) 733-4811 weekdays or (717) 733-6600 on weekends.

Landis Valley Museum

"Christmas at Landis Valley" on Tuesday is a long-standing tradition at Landis Valley Museum near Lancaster, Pa. Visitors can tour the decorated buildings of the farm-museum complex, including the tavern, country store and the visitor center, with its large Christmas tree, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., free of charge.

At 7 p.m. there will be a reading of the Christmas scriptures, followed by caroling around the bonfire accompanied by the Lititz Moravian Trombone Choir, hot cider and cookies.

The event is held regardless of weather. Visitors are advised to dress warmly and bring flashlights. A donation of canned goods is requested for the Lancaster Food Bank.

The museum is 2.5 miles northeast of Lancaster on state Route 272, a marked exit off U.S. 30. Call (717) 569-0401.

Starvation Ball

Christmas of 1864 was well remembered by the citizens of Petersburg, Va. The city had been under constant attack by the Union Army for nearly six months. There was little food, and homes had no heat. To make the best of a bad situation the citizens celebrated by holding "starvation balls." Dancing was a pleasant way to keep warm, and for refreshments Jeff Davis punch (water) was served.

The Starvation Ball is re-enacted each Christmas at Centre Hill Mansion, built in 1823 by one of city's wealthy citizens. The event will be held next Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. It is open to the public free of charge.

The mansion is at Centre Hill Court in Petersburg. Call (804) 733-2402.

Holiday in Jamestown

"A Jamestown Christmas" at Jamestown Settlement near Williamsburg, Va., explores old English yuletide traditions through Dec. 31. A film presentation compares the holiday celebrations in England with those in the Jamestown Colony.

"The Lord of Misrule" a 17th-century character who presided over yuletide festivities in England, greets visitors and leads them through the fort. Activities include traditional English games, music, hands-on crafts and holiday food preparation.

The settlement is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Christmas and New Year's days. Admission is $7.50 for adults; $3.75 for ages 6 to 12. Jamestown Settlement is on state Route 31 southwest of Williamsburg. Call (804) 229-1607.

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