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VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS FESTIVITIES
AT THE FALL RIVER HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Photographs by Jan Armour, Photography, Portsmouth, RI

Chrsitmas Tree

Each year, beginning the week before Thanksgiving, the Historical Society's mansion is lavishly decorated in the Victorian manner. Holiday spirit abounds from room to room, with the focal point being a magnificent 14-foot Christmas tree in the Music Room. Aglow with thousands of lights, it is a tree guaranteed to instill holiday spirit in both young and old.

Traditional decorations are creatively used, working with a variety of holiday themes, to create a display unlike anything to be seen in the Fall River area. Last year's theme, "Victorian Christmas Traditions," was very well received by the public and was photographed by VICTORIAN HOMES magazine for its Christmas 2003 issue. The Music Room's tree was illuminated by the glow of 4100 white lights, was laden with silver tinsel and decorated with hundreds of mouth-blown glass ornaments typical of the Victorian period. The concept of Christmas as we know it originated in Germany and was introduced to England by Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg Gotha, consort of Queen Victoria. Americans, who strove to emulate the British traditions, quickly adopted the holiday and made it their own. Bavarian glassblowers created untold thousands of ornaments, many of which carry holiday lore. Replicas of many of these ornaments can be found on the Society's tree. Among the most popular are: the glass pickle, which was traditionally hidden on the tree, to be discovered on Christmas morning by the most perceptive child, who was rewarded with a special gift; "Crampus," a small devil-like figure with black horns made of coal, who followed Father Christmas rewarding naughty children with coal; the carrot, an ornament traditionally given to new brides to bring luck in the kitchen. Christmas Ornament
parlor The parlor was banked with paper poinsettias. This plant was named as a tribute to Mr. Joel R. Poinsett, the American Ambassador to Mexico and amateur botanist, who so admired the Mexican wildflower that he brought it to North America and cultivated it in his own greenhouses. In this manner did it become a major part of our Christmas tradition today. The delicate hothouse plant was a great rarity in cold New England winters and so was often copied by nineteenth-century paper flower makers.
The dining room was ornamented with della robbia of sparkling crystal-beaded fruit, with the table set with a magnificent nineteenth-century Davenport china dessert service. The centerpiece of the table was a three-tiered cake traditionally decorated with candies, nuts and sugared fruit, surmounted by a pink peppermint pig. As the pig was a symbol of good luck in the Victorian era, candy-makers in Saratoga Springs, New York, began to manufacture small peppermint pigs. In observance of the tradition, those who purchased the pigs would, following the holiday meal, shatter the pig so that each family member could taste of the candy as a wish for good luck in the coming year. Christmas Table
Victorian Bedroom

In the bedroom stood a tree decorated entirely in nineteenth-century photographs and greeting cards, very typical of trees in Fall River homes during the nineteenth-century, documented by photographs in the Society's collection.

The first floor hallway was simply decorated using evergreens and holly, incorporating roses in tribute to the legend of the Christmas rose. As the story goes, a little girl happened upon the stable in Bethlehem where the Christ child lay. Upset because she had no gift to bring, she began to cry and, incredibly, her tears turned into beautiful roses.

While touring the museum, guests might also want to browse in the museum shop, which is filled with a vast number of unique gifts. Here you can find the right present for that someone special on your list. This year, many new mouth-blown glass ornaments will also be featured. Among our museum shop bestsellers are delectable sugar plums, the traditional Victorian candy meant to bring sweet dreams to any child that slept with one beneath its pillow. Victorian Gifts
Victorain Chair

The Fall River Historical Society hopes you will take advantage of this opportunity to visit. The museum will be "decked out" for the occasion in the grand manner of an elegant Victorian mansion and will be a sight to behold!

These are some of the highlights of the holiday exhibit last year at the Historical Society.

Museum hours are: Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The museum will close at 12:00 noon on Christmas Eve and will be closed Christmas Day. For further information, please call (508) 679-1071.

 
 
 
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The Fall River Historical Society • 451 Rock Street • Fall River, Massachusetts 02720 • (508) 679-1071

This site is funded in part by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Economic Development/Office of Travel and Tourism and the Bristol County Convention and Visitor's Bureau.
Additional funding was provided through a generous contribution from the Earle P. Charlton, Jr. Charity Fund, through Earle P. Charlton II.

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