Step back in time and experience an old-fashioned Christmas
Often during the holiday season you hear people complain about the commercialism of Christmas and our fast-paced modern life. Wouldn’t it be nice to travel back in time and experience a simpler, more relaxed Christmas, like our ancestors did over 100 years ago?
While time machines haven’t been invented yet, there are a number of places throughout our region where you can step back in time, a least for a few hours, and experience an old-fashioned Victorian Christmas. Here is a sampling of the celebrations being planned in nearby communities this holiday season. In addition to these events listed, many area historical societies have special holiday events planned during November and December, so be sure to check with your town or village to see what’s going on.
Probably the area’s best known Victorian Christmas celebration is the one held at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, also known as the Wilcox Mansion, on Delaware Avenue in downtown Buffalo. Since the site recently underwent an extensive renovation, including the addition of a carriage house, this year’s event will prove to be a special one.
The 36th annual Victorian Christmas, December 2nd-11th, kicks off with an evening gala and auction on December 2nd. Other activities throughout the week include candlelight dinners, luncheons, and vintage fashion shows.
Of course, the highlight of the event is the Victorian-inspired decorations throughout the mansion, which are designed by the Eighth District Federated Garden Clubs of New York State. The museum shop, along with a Snowflake Boutique, is stocked with one-of-a-kind gifts for your holiday shopping.
Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, 641 Delaware Ave., Buffalo 716-884-0095, www.trsite.org General admission is $5/person. Open Monday-Saturday 10 am-5 pm, Sunday 12-5 pm. Dinners and other special events are an additional cost.
You can also step back in time to celebrate a Victorian-era Christmas at the Col. William Bond House in Lockport. This home, which is listed on the National Historic Register, is part of the Niagara County Historical Society.
Their annual holiday event, A Winter’s Eve, takes places Thursday December 2nd, from 6-8:30 pm. The circa 1824 house, the first brick house built in Lockport, will have all 12 rooms beautifully decorated with period decorations. Timeless Christmas carols will be performed by Randy Andropolis and friends. There will be fancy cookies and hot mulled cider to enjoy and there will also be special children’s activities.
Col William Bond House, 143 Ontario St, Lockport 716-434-7433. Admission $3/person.
If you want to go further back in time, check out the Colonial Christmas by Candlelight at Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown. This fundraiser for the old fort features tours given by re-enactors in character, firing of the Christmas guns, and traditional period holiday decorations in the fort’s French Castle, which is the oldest building in the Great Lakes region. This even takes place December 11th and 18th from 7-8:30 pm each night.
The old fort also is hosting a holiday open house and auction on December 5th from 1:30-4 pm. This event features live entertainment, refreshments, and the opportunity to bid on unique items.
Old Fort Niagara, Fort Niagara State Park, Youngstown, 716-745-7611 www.oldfortniagara.org Tickets for the Colonial Christmas by Candlelight are $8/person
Just a few miles south of the old fort, the historic village of Lewiston is a great place to get into the holiday spirit. The weekend features a number of old-fashioned holiday activities, kicking off with the village tree lighting at 7 pm December 3rd in Hennepin Park.
The annual Christmas Walk takes place Saturday December 4th and Sunday December 5th. Festivities begin at 11 am with the arrival of Santa Clause by helicopter (weather permitting). Santa touches down in Academy Park and then is taken by horse drawn carriage down Center Street to Hennepin Park, where he will meets with every child.
There will also be a petting zoo just outside Hennepin Park and caroling by various groups along Center Street. Many of the village shops and restaurants will be offering special sales and promotions throughout the weekend.
That weekend is also Lewiston’s annual Tour of Historic Homes, which takes place on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am-5 pm both days. This event, which features a tour of several private homes decorated for Christmas, is a fundraiser for the Lewiston Historical Society. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at area businesses or online.
Lewiston Village Tree Lighting and Historic Tour of Homes 716-754-9500, www.niagarariverregion.com or www.lewistonhometour.com
A similar tour of homes takes place across the river in Canada. The Rotary Club of Niagara-on-the-Lake hosts their 12th annual Holiday House Tour on December 3rd and 4th. This event, a fundraiser for the Rotary Club, features a number of sites, including 6 privately owned homes that have been professionally decorated for the holiday season. The historic McFarland House, an 1800’s Georgian style home which one of the oldest homes in Canada, is also participating in the tour. It will be decorated for the holidays by the Garden Club of Niagara.
The annual Candlelight Stroll on Queen Street, which is sponsored by the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce, also takes place this weekend. This guided stroll through the historic streets begins at the clock tower at 6:30 pm on Friday December 3rd at 6:30 pm. Proceeds from this event will benefit a local child with special needs.
Niagara on the Lake Holiday House Tour, 905-351-3807, www.rotary-niagara.com Tickets, which are good for both days, are $25/person.
Niagara-on-the-Lake Candlelight Stroll, 905-468-1950, www.niagaraonthelake.com candles $3 each or 2 for $5.
While in Canada, why not check out the annual Feel the Spirit of Christmas, a Dickens’s-style open house held on December 4th and 5th in the quaint little village of Ridgeway, Ontario, located between Fort Erie and Crystal Beach. This quaint village, which has a collection of unique shops and restaurants, is often overlooked by people visiting southern Ontario. This event features Christmas carols, decorated outdoor trees, sleigh rides, and more.
Village of Ridgewaywww.forteriecanada.com/tourism/ridgeway.shtml
A large Dickens-themed event takes place every year at the Craft Antique Co-op, in Greece, just west of Rochester. This event, which kicks off Saturday Nov. 6th and runs until December 24th, features live entertainment, an Old London Town street, with Scrooge and Marley’s office and Christmas Carol characters, including Tiny Tim, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, and even Scrooge himself.
Craft Antique Co-op features over two hundred crafts and antique shops on two floors. It is the largest craft and antique co-op in the state.
Dickens Christmas Festival, Craft Antique Co-op, 3200 Ridge Road, Greece 585-368-0670, www.craftantiqueco-op.com. Open Thursday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm. Free Admission.
The Village of Angelica, in Allegany County, is a perfect place get into the Christmas spirit. This small but quaint village, with street lined with Victorian-era homes, has a number of antique shops, restaurants, and inns. As a matter of fact if you’ve ever seen the 1997 Reader’s Digest video, An Old Fashioned Christmas, Angelica will look familiar to you, as it was the setting for that film.
The village has two holiday events of note. The 14th annual Angel Station postage cancellation will take place on December 10th at the Angelica Post Office. Many people drop off their holiday cards at the post office and the cards are held until the cancellation date.
The annual Luminaries in the Park will take place Sunday December 19th at 5 pm. Angelica’s picturesque Park Circle will be lit with hundreds of candles and a Living Nativity will be presented. Afterwards, there will be caroling, hot chocolate, and cookies.
Village of Angelicawww.angelica-ny.com.
Genesee County Village in Mumford, about a 45 minute drive from Buffalo, has their annual Yuletide in the County, the first three weekends in December. The event features over sixty 19th century homes and businesses decorated in period style for the holidays. Genesee County Village, a recreated 1800’s community, is the third largest collection of historic buildings in the nation.
Enjoy reenactments of Christmas past, holiday songs and musical entertainment, refreshments, and more. There will even be a gingerbread house competition, with houses modeled after homes found in Genesee Country Village. (See website for details on entering your creation in the competition)
Yuletide in the Country, Genesee Country Village, Flint Hill Road, Mumford, 585-538-6822, www.gcv.org Event takes place Dec. 3-5, 10-12, 17-19. $22/Adults, $15/ youth.
Speaking of Gingerbread, a popular holiday tradition in the Rochester area is the annual Sweet Creations Gingerbread House Display at the George Eastman House. This event features over 70 gingerbread houses made by professional bakers, community groups, and families. The National Historic Landmark George Eastman House, built between 1902-1905, will be decorated for the holidays in period style. Since 1949 this 12 acre estate has been home to the International Museum of Photography and Film.
Sweet Creations Gingerbread House Display, George Eastman House, 900 East Avenue, Rochester, 585-271-3361, www.eastmanhouse.org The gingerbread houses will be on display Nov. 10-Dec. 15. Admission to the museum is $10/adults, $4/children.