‘A County Christmas’ harkens back to a simpler time here

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Take a step back into a more simple time this Saturday, December 10th, as a “Country Christmas” is celebrated at both the Thiebaud Farmstead and Musee de Venoge.

Visit the two historic farm houses celebrating Christmases of the past this Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Have a simple country Christmas at 1820’s Venoge; and also enjoy the beginnings of modern Christmas celebrations at the 1860’s Thiebaud farmstead.

“The two sites basically show a contrast of about 50 years of how Christmas was celebrated,” Martha Bladen said. “You have the very simple one at Venoge, and then, as some of the customs that we are familiar with now would at the Thiebaud Farmstead, like a Christmas tree and decorating with natural things and such.”

The Thiebaud home will have various old fashioned cookies baked by members of the Historical Society; and there will also be warm tea to warm folks up on a cold day.

“We’re also doing hearth cooking that day,” Bladen said. “A dinner that would have been appropriate for a family at that time.”

Also at Thiebaud will be some storytelling, with Dan Bixler’s ‘River Rat’ character telling different Christmas tales; while some of the children will be performing a dramatization of “A Visit from St. Nicholas”.

“That was actually written in 1822, and it became published in 1844,” Bladen said of the timeless tale, commonly known as ‘The Night Before Christmas’. “So it’s perfect for us because it’s stayed a popular story over the years.”

Live Christmas tunes by ‘West of Dublin’ will also welcome the season; while Helen Parks will be in the parlor portraying Justine Schenck, who was a Thiebaud; and Gerri Emmelman will be doing the hearth cooking along with Melanie Collier and Cathlene Barrett. Textiles of the time will be made, with Melodee Stepleton spinning and Sundra Whitham using the Historical Society’s vintage sewing machine. Mickie Rader will be on site quilting; and there will also be some ornament making, including a hands on activity for children to make an ornament.

Also featured at the Thiebaud Farmstead will be tours of the smokehouse and the haypress barn; although there won’t be any pressing of hay, but it will give people the opportunity to see the structure.

Floyd Whitham will be in the recently restored smokehouse on Saturday; while George Reed will be doing the tours of the haypress barn. Anita Danner will be giving general tours of the home.

“We will also have a goose feather tree,” Bladen said. “The first trees were table top trees, and they actually wired on goose feathers and they had them dyed green, and then we will have vintage ornaments on that. Jay Benzing has an incredible, historic, vintage Christmas decorations collection.”

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At Venoge, a much simpler Christmas holiday will be depicted.

Donna Weaver said that the early settlers who would have lived during the time period of Venoge would have been strict Presbyterians, and as such would not have celebrated Christmas in that way.

“Not for these folks,” she said. “If they were Church of England or Episcopal, they might have; but these folks were Presbyterians, and the Presbyterian Church did not really recognize and celebrate Christmas as a special until much, much later. Presbyterians believed that there was no date in the gospel commanded to be kept holy, except the Lord’s day, which is the Christian sabbath. So they were going strictly by what their Bible told them, and it didn’t say anything about doing anything special on Christmas.”

Weaver said that it didn’t change for the Presbyterians until the 1850s, when their children were going to Sunday School and saw others celebrating Christmas, and asked their parents, ‘”Why not us, too?”

On Saturday there will be three musicians performing throughout the event at Venoge. They will be playing traditional music from the period that would have been popular through the Ohio Valley.

There will also be some wonderful, traditional foods available.

“We’ll be cooking sweet potato fritters,” Weaver said. “Doughnuts. Deep fried and hot out of the oil; and we’ll have our usual table of holiday treats.”

Also at Venoge there will be cedar branches that will be given away for visitors to take home and use in their Christmas decorations; and there will also be some domestic art demonstrations going on.

“We’ll probably only have about 10 demonstrators and volunteers in the house because it’s small,” Weaver said. “We won’t be outside, that’s for sure. We’ll try and get the house warm to make it comfortable for everyone.”

Musee de Venoge is located at 111 State Route 129, which is two miles west of Vevay on State Route 56 and one mile up 129.

The Thiebaud Farmstead is located at 5147 East State Road 56, which is about three miles west of Vevay.

Admission to “A Country Christmas” is free, with donations greatly appreciated.

For further information about the two sites, visit www.switzcomuseums.org or call (812) 427-3560 and www.venoge.org or call (812) 593-5726.