Learning about Christmas long ago
While some folks were out finishing off their Christmas shopping or winding up the last of their holiday preparations, many others were taking a moment to remember the past. It was all about reminiscing about the fun times of old and anticipating the new memories to come. That’s where the Western Development Museum sought to offer a little more ‘tangible’ experience during the past two weekends, as they hosted their second annual Christmas Long Ago presentations. The event featured a special ‘Christmas living room’ display – complete with fireplace, tree, cozy carpets and comfy chairs – set to look like a home in the early 1900s. WDM education and public program director Karla Rasmussen conducted the show, running patrons through the wide variety of artifacts on display as well as passing on tales of how things were in the old days.
“This is originally based on a kindergarten program we used to have, where the class would come in, the teacher would have a script and would go through everything,” Rasmussen said. “But I always felt we could embellish it a bit more because the kids were asking a lot more questions than was in the basic script.” Things took off from there, as the WDM brought in boxes of old-fashioned toys that could actually be held and played with as well as a crafts program that featured oldstyle ways of creating Christmas finery. The end result has been impressive, as patrons both young and old have flocked to see the show since its inception – from 100 students last year to over 400 this year, followed by public dates that were all but sold out. The popularity has risen so much that the WDM added a show on Christmas Eve to add an extra special touch to the proceedings. Interestingly enough, it isn’t just children and their parents who are taking in the show; there have been plenty of adults and seniors who have come out just to take in the educational experience or actually reminisce of their own past Christmases. “It’s really wonderful that way because I think we all feel like kids at Christmas time and everyone can take something away from it, whether it’s something they learned or remembering something they used or were a part of or something their friends talked about,” Rasmussen said. One aspect that makes Christmas Long Ago so popular is the hands-on portion – in addition to being able to hold and experience old toys and items from the old days, the aforementioned toys are handed out at one point in the show, so everyone can have a try. That’s proven to be a hit with the kids who’ve never seen such things, as well as with the seniors who actually played with similar toys in the past. “Usually when you’re at a museum everything is so hands off, where this part of the collection is meant to be touched as part of a physical interaction,” Rasmussen said. “It’s really great, it makes history come alive.”
Youngsters gather in front of the fireplace to listen to stories of Christmas Long Ago.
Parents and children alike work on crafts after the Christmas Long Ago presentation.
The gifts folks received in the early 1900s were far different from what we receive today...
Before e-mails there were letters, and there were a lot of letters sent at Christmas time.