This week would be a good time to catch up on some of the many holiday events that were missed in the mad rush to Christmas.
One feast for the eyes is the holiday display at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa., on view though Jan. 3. It's a wonderland of brilliantly colored poinsettias, sparkling Christmas trees and glittering lights. This year's exhibit celebrates "Nature's Christmas," with the conservatories transformed into a woodland setting filled with rabbits, beavers, deer and other forest creatures made of grapevines, dried flowers and other natural materials. One setting features topiary animals skating on an ice pond; another shows a sleigh being pulled through the woods by a life-sized grapevine horse. In the Music Room you can see a very large Christmas tree trimmed with bees, birds, butterflies, flowers and fruit. Another feature of this year's event is a collection of sleds ranging from the late 19th century through the 1940s. Each afternoon between 1:30 and 4:30, and evenings 7 and 8, organ sing-alongs are scheduled in Longwood's Ballroom.
Outside, the grounds are aglow with 200,000 lights strung in treetops. Each day between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. a colored fountain display is set to holiday music. Garden hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Admission is $10 for adults ($6 on Tuesdays); $6 for ages 16 to 20; $2 for ages 6 to 15; free for under 6. The gardens are on U.S. 1, three miles northeast of Kennett Square. For information, call (215) 388-6741.
The Brandywine River Museum in nearby Chadds Ford, Pa., is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year, but particularly so during "A Brandywine Christmas," which runs through Jan. 9. Its unusual setting, a restored 19th-century gristmill on the banks of the Brandywine River, adds to the charm.
Natural "critter" ornaments made from plant materials are among the popular Christmas attractions. Critter-making began in 1973 when two museum volunteers discovered they could use natural materials collected on the grounds to create wonderful tree ornaments. Two years later, an instructional pamphlet was published, and by 1984 critters found their way to a White House Christmas tree and then to displays at the Smithsonian Institution. They gained national attention when they were featured in several top magazines.
There are theme trees decorated with musical ornaments and storybook characters, a wildlife tree and a materials tree. There's also an exhibit of jewelry that interprets the paintings of Andrew Wyeth, children's-book illustrations, a rare Victorian doll house and the museum's model train display which fills the second-floor gallery.
The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but today through Thursday hours have been extended to 6 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults; $2.50 for seniors and students; free for children under 6. The museum is on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford. Call (215) 388-2700.
Holidays at Winterthur
American holiday celebrations of the 18th and 19th century are the focus of yuletide tours at Winterthur Museum and Gardens near Wilmington through Jan. 2.
Each year, 20 rooms depict a variety of settings and time periods. New this year is a contemporary family scene complete with Christmas stocking, decorated tree and wrapped gifts; another scene features preparations for a christening in 18th-century Tidewater Virginia. Other settings include New Year's calling at Thomas Jefferson's White House, St. Lucia Day in a Swedish home and Hanukkah in early 19th-century New York. Historically documented Christmas trees are on display, ranging from an early tree decorated with cookies and apples to a large elaborate Victorian model.
On weekends, storytellers, musicians, singers, magicians and others provide 18th- and 19th-century entertainment in the reception area that connects the period rooms with the galleries.
Hours for holiday tours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are advised. Admission is $10 for adults; $8 for seniors and ages 12 to 18; $6 for ages 5 to 11; free for under 5. The museum is on Route 52, six miles northwest of Wilmington. Call (302) 888-4600 or (800) 448-3883.
The Candlelight Tour of Historic Houses of Worship this evening is an opportunity to see the famous "clustered spires of Frederick," a phrase from Whittier's Civil War poem, "Barbara Fritchie." The self-guided tour from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. visits several decorated churches and one synagogue, including Barbara Fritchie's own church, Evangelical Reformed Church.
Others include Visitation Academy Chapel, Frederick Church of the Brethren, Asbury United Methodist Church, All Saints Episcopal Church, Frederick Presbyterian Church, Calvary United Methodist Church, Beth Sholom Synagogue, Centennial Memorial United Methodist Church, Grace United Church of Christ, St. John's Catholic Church, Trinity Chapel, First Baptist Church and Trinity United Methodist Church.
Some of the churches will offer programs of choral or instrumental music and other presentations, and some will serve free refreshments. As a complement to the tour, the Frederick Historical Society will hold open house from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Tour brochures and a map can be picked up at the Frederick Visitor Center, 19 E. Church St., which is open today from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call (301) 663-8687.
Celebrations at Smithsonian
Travel to the nation's capital for more holiday fun. The free holiday celebration at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is a fine outing for children. It opens today and runs through Friday from noon to 4 p.m. focusing on the different ways Americans celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas and New Year's through music, craft demonstrations, storytelling and food.
Among the groups performing hourly at the museum's Palm Court on the first floor are the Washington Balalaika Society, playing Russian folk music; an American string band; the Capital Klezmers; a Guatemalan marimba band and a 1920s jug band. In another part of the museum you can hear a variety of musical instruments from steel drums to bagpipes. Roving singers will be entertaining throughout the museum. You can also attend marionette performances or listen to stories for Kwanzaa or Jewish folk tales. A daily showing of a video produced by Maryland Public Television offers information about the African-American tradition of Kwanzaa. There is also a presentation of the Kwanzaa Harvest Ceremony. You'll see preparations of ethnic holiday food and all kinds of holiday craft demonstrations, from making wooden toys to printing calendars. Call (202) 357-2700.
Poinsettias on display
The Christmas Show at the U.S. Botanic Garden features hundreds of poinsettias in various forms and colors, even one in lemon-drop yellow.
The theme of the show this year is "Holidays of Old Washington," depicting the capital in the 19th and 20th centuries. The show includes a model steam train on loan from the Garden Railway Society, a collection of photographs of turn-of-the-century Washington and a history of the poinsettia which includes a display of the plants in their earlier forms. The show continues through Jan. 9. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free. The garden is at First Street and Maryland Avenue Southwest. Call (202) 226-4082.
White House tours
White House Candlelight tours are offered Tuesday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Visitors will see the decorated state rooms of the White House while military bands play seasonal music. Admission is free. Enter by the East Gate on East Executive Avenue. Be prepared for a two-hour wait for this popular event, but those in line by 7 p.m. will get in. Call (202) 456-2200.