Granville’s museums will throw open their doors and welcome in the public during their annual holiday open houses this Sunday starting at 1 p.m.
In conjunction with the Slate Valley Museum’s running exhibit “Rivals in Slate, Brothers in War: The Slate Valley Unites for the Union Cause” visitors will learn about and experience Christmas traditions which came about during the 19th century and became cemented in the culture during the War Between the States.
“We’re really inviting people to look at the origins of the Christmas tradition that have become scared parts of our holiday tradition and how really in the middle of the century they became solid American traditions with the Dutch and Santa Claus and the German Christmas tree and how it all became a part of an American Christmas,” Slate Valley Museum director Kate Weller said.
Weller said the event at both locations will be a “more positive look at people starting to unify and become one American identity” around common holiday traditions rather than a look at a nation being torn apart by war.
A new feature this holiday season will have the same performers at different times at both locations.
“Pat (Wesner, Pember director) and I worked closely on creating a program for the whole event. Unlike in years past every performer will be doing half their time at each location, this means people will not have to worry about missing some aspect of the program when they’re at the other location,” Weller said.
Along with the Pember Library and Museum, the Slate Valley Museum will show how the Christmas holiday “became a beacon of hope” to families away from the war on the home front.
From the jolly gift-giving Santa or the early Thomas Nast version, other traditions now widely accepted began to take root in the culture around this time, including the aforementioned Christmas tree.
This early Nast rendition of Santa, who will appear live, predates the popular image and will be quite different, Weller said.
A drawing from the cover of Harper’s Weekly shows the Nash-penned Santa.
“It’s wonderful because it’s a very patriotic propaganda use of Santa; he’s visiting the troops and you can see a couple of drummer boys in the foreground playing with toys, it’s an interesting look at how a new figure of Christmas was being used to support the Union war effort,” Weller said.
Santa, dressed in that Civil War ‘uniform’ will visit both locations, stopping at the Slate Valley Museum from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and then taking the footbridge across the Mettowee River to the Pember to visit from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
In keeping with the Civil War era theme, President and Mrs. Abraham Lincoln will speak with visitors about their holiday traditions in the White House.
Abraham and Mary will visit the Pember for an hour starting at 1:30 p.m. and at the Slate Valley Museum starting at 2:30 p.m.
Lincoln will also recite the Gettysburg Address.
Guests will be able to hear an historically illustrated reading of “The Night Before Christmas” at 2 p.m. at the Pember Museum and 3 p.m. at SVM.
Throughout the day enjoy music with Steve Havel, holiday food and drinks and activities for children.
Havel will also play both sides of the bridge at differing times.