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Holiday events at state historic sites and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum cover nearly 300 years of yuletide celebrations

[NOV. 22, 2006]  SPRINGFIELD -- Traditional holiday celebrations from the 1700s through the 20th century may be enjoyed this year at Illinois' state-operated historic sites and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

“Holiday events are the ideal family activity, as they encourage parents and children to enjoy their heritage together,” said Robert Coomer, director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which administers the state's historic sites and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

"Holidays at the White House," Nov. 24 through Jan. 7 -- Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, Springfield, 217-558-8970

The Illinois Gallery at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum will showcase rare artifacts, insightful stories and holiday trees in this exclusive look into Christmas and New Year's days past at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The regular museum admission of $7.50 for adults, $3.50 for children and $5.50 for senior citizens will apply.

Santa's House, Nov. 24, 25 and 26 and Dec. 2, 9 and 16 -- Old Market House State Historic Site, Galena, 815-777-3310

The Old Market House at 123 Commerce St. in downtown Galena will be the site of Santa's House. The annual parade will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, and Santa's House will open after Santa arrives at the Old Market House. Santa will give gift bags to children until 7 p.m. Santa will also greet children from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and on Dec. 2, 9 and 16. The event is free and open to the public.

Lamplight tours, Nov. 24, 25 and 26 and Dec. 2, 3, 9 and 10 -- Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site, Galena, 815-777-3310

Lamplight tours of the Ulysses S. Grant Home at 500 Bouthillier St. in Galena will be offered from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday and on Dec. 2, 3, 9 and 10. The home's oil lamps will be lit, and 1870s Victorian Christmas decorations will grace the home of the president and Civil War general. The tours are free and open to the public.

Julmarknad (Swedish Christmas Market), Nov. 24, 25 and 26 and Dec. 2 and 3 -- Bishop Hill State Historic Site, Bishop Hill, 309-927-3345

The holiday season will be opened the traditional Swedish way during Julmarknad, or Christmas Market, at Bishop Hill from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday and on Dec. 2 and 3. The entire village will be adorned with traditional Swedish holiday decorations. Stores will have traditional decorations, pottery, baskets, brooms, toys, food and other items for sale. Swedish folk characters will wander the village, and there will be a cookie walk, chocolate walk, musical performances, artisan demonstrations, baking, horse-drawn rides and workshops for children. The events are free and open to the public.

Christmas at Clover Lawn, Nov. 24-Dec. 31 -- David Davis Mansion State Historic Site, Bloomington, 309-828-1084

An authentic Victorian holiday celebration will be featured during "Christmas at Clover Lawn," scheduled for Nov. 24-Dec. 31 at the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington. The 36-room mansion will be decorated with evergreen boughs, glittering ornaments, antique toys and Christmas trees in almost every room. During the celebration, visitors may tour the mansion Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Dec. 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., there will be special holiday workshops where children may make their own copy of one of the authentic 19th-century ornaments they will see on the mansion tour. The Clover Lawn Museum Shop, operated by the David Davis Mansion Foundation, will have many of the mansion's unique Christmas ornaments for sale during the holiday season. The events are free and open to the public.

Indian Market Days, Nov. 24, 25 and 26 -- Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Collinsville, 618-346-5160

The fourth annual Indian Market Days at the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center will be Friday through Sunday. Vendors and Indian artists will display and sell artwork, jewelry, sculpture, herbals, weaving, clothing, ceramics and other Indian-made items. This is the ideal opportunity to locate a unique holiday gift. The show will be conducted on Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Cider Sippin' Sale, Nov. 25 -- Cahokia Courthouse State Historic Site, Cahokia, 618-332-1782

The Cahokia Courthouse "Cider Sippin' Sale" on Saturday from 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. is a perfect opportunity to find that special stocking stuffer and enjoy holiday shopping in a historic setting and relaxed atmosphere. While browsing through the selection of unique gifts, visitors can enjoy a cup of hot cider, talk to interpreters in period clothing and enjoy the warmth of a roaring fire. Books, postcards, coffee mugs and T-shirts will be among the items for sale. Decorative fleur-de-lis and pineapple sun-catchers and commemorative coins would make perfect ornaments for any tree. The event is free and open to the public.

Dana-Thomas House Christmas, Nov. 29-Dec. 31 -- Dana-Thomas House State Historic Site, Springfield, 217-782-6776

The Dana-Thomas House State Historic Site in Springfield will be fully decorated for the holiday season in lavish turn-of-the-20th-century style beginning Nov. 29 through Dec. 1. Free public tours are available Wednesdays through Sundays. Special events include Family Night, Dec. 15; Luminaria Evening, Dec. 17; and Children's Story Hour, Dec. 28. The Sumac Shop in the Dana-Thomas House Visitors Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays and until 8 p.m. on Dec. 15, 16 and 17, the same days the site will have extended hours. The Sumac Shop has gained a national reputation for the quality and uniqueness of its products, which include books and monographs, cards and postcards, Wright reproduction and adaptation items, jewelry, period decorative arts, and related gift items.

Christmas in the Courthouse, Dec. 1 and 2 -- Metamora Courthouse State Historic Site, Metamora, 309-367-4470

The Metamora Woman's Club 16th annual "Christmas in the Courthouse" opens Dec. 1 in the historic 1845 courthouse on the Metamora town square. Ten trees will be decorated with historic, community or patriotic themes, along with wreaths, garlands and burgundy velvet bows inside and outside the courthouse. An open house and concert from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 1 will feature live Christmas and traditional music in the courtroom and greeters in Civil War costumes. A choir and carolers will lead visitors in a community singalong. Hot cider and cookies will be served. A second open house and an opportunity to talk with Santa Claus in the courtroom will be offered Dec. 2 from 1 to 4 p.m. The events are free and open to the public. The decorations may be viewed through Jan. 3.

The Saint Nicholas tradition, Dec. 2 -- Martin-Boismenue House State Historic Site, North Dupo, 618-332-1782

The tradition of St. Nicholas, the fourth-century gift-giver who is the inspiration for Santa Claus, will be explored during a special event on Dec. 2 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Martin-Boismenue House, North Dupo. St. Nicholas will stop by the candlelit historic home to greet families and share holiday treats with children. The house will be decorated for the season in traditional frontier fashion, with St. Nicholas seated in front of a crackling fire. Parents are encouraged to bring cameras to capture their children's delight at seeing St. Nicholas. The event is free and open to the public.

Holiday celebration, Dec. 2 and 3 -- Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield, 217-558-8970

Children's holiday crafts will be offered free of charge Dec. 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. The Catholic Charities and Holy Family Food Pantry canned food drive takes place Dec. 2 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., also in the library. Live musical entertainment will be provided Dec. 2 and 3 in the museum. The standard museum admission of $7.50 for adults, $3.50 for children and $5.50 for senior citizens will apply.

Christmas open house, Dec. 2 -- Postville Courthouse State Historic Site, Lincoln, 217-735-4977

Step back to Lincoln's time and enjoy period holiday decorations, music and sweets during the Christmas open house on Dec. 2 from noon to 4 p.m. at Postville Courthouse. The event is free and open to the public. The courthouse will be decorated in the style of the mid-1800s, and its Christmas tree will feature prairie dolls, wooden decorations and grapevines. Guides will explain the ornaments on the tree and how they were crafted in the 1840s. China painting will be demonstrated, and period music will fill the historic building. A display of 1840s photography will be in the courtroom, and a Lincoln impersonator will greet visitors. Refreshments will be served.

Christmas program, Dec. 3 and 4 -- Jubilee College State Historic Site, Brimfield, 309-243-9489

The candlelit chapel will be the setting for the annual nondenominational Christmas program on Dec. 3 and 4 at Jubilee College, Brimfield. The public program will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, and the program for senior citizens will be at 5 p.m. Dec. 4. Each will include performances on the 1848 Henry Erben organ, and the Flanagan High School madrigal ensemble will sing medieval and traditional songs. Candlelight tours of the 1840s college will be given, and refreshments will be served. The event is free and open to the public.

Christmas candlelight tours, Dec. 8 and 9 -- Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site, near Charleston, 217-345-1845

A Christmas holiday tradition that looks like it came from a greeting card can be experienced during the Christmas candlelight tours on Dec. 8 and 9 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Lincoln Log Cabin, Charleston. The event is free and open to the public. Visitors are welcome to tour the Lincoln and Sargent farms by candlelit paths to see how Christmas may have been observed by 19th-century Americans. At the Lincoln Cabin, the family will gather around the hearth and share the evening socializing with neighbors, as was common with many farm families after the busy harvest season, all while spinning wool, knitting and performing other small tasks. Meanwhile, at the Sargent Farm, members of the family will celebrate the holiday with good food, simple decorations and Bible readings. Period music will also be performed.

Lucia Nights, Dec. 8 and 9 -- Bishop Hill State Historic Site, Bishop Hill, 309-927-3345

A Swedish holiday tradition will be re-created during the annual Lucia Nights on Dec. 8 and 9 at Bishop Hill. In a continuation of Swedish tradition, all Bishop Hill businesses, museums, and bed and breakfasts will be open until 9 p.m. and will feature a Lucia girl wearing a white robe, crimson sash and a candle crown. She will serve hot beverages and sweets to visitors. The celebration will begin at 6 p.m. Dec. 8 as the community Christmas tree is lit at the southeast corner of the village park. Seasonal music will be provided both evenings. This Swedish tradition is based on St. Lucia, Queen of Light. Legend has it that during a famine in Sweden, on the longest and darkest day of the year, St. Lucia appeared wearing a white robe and a crown of candles on a ship loaded with food. Swedish girls still awaken their families on Dec. 13 dressed in white robes and wearing crowns of candles.

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"The Christmas Songbook," Dec. 8, 9 and 10 -- Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, Petersburg, 217-632-4000
Tickets must be purchased for this event.

A perennial favorite musical revue, Gordon Productions' "The Christmas Songbook," returns to Lincoln's New Salem Visitor Center auditorium. Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 and 9 and 3 p.m. on Dec. 10. Tickets, at $12 for adults and $11 for senior citizens and children under 12, may be reserved by calling 217-632-4000. The show is being presented as a fundraiser for the New Salem Lincoln League. "The Christmas Songbook" features holiday favorites that were made famous by such entertainers as Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Karen Carpenter, Andy Williams, Elvis, Rosemary Clooney and others. "White Christmas," "I'll be Home for Christmas," "Winter Wonderland" and more than 30 other holiday pop songs will be presented.

Gilded Age Christmas dinner, Dec. 8 and 9 -- David Davis Mansion State Historic Site, Bloomington, 309-828-1084
Advance reservations and fee required.

A grand Christmas dinner featuring six courses of Victorian culinary delights, Gilded Age decorations and holiday activities is scheduled for Dec. 8 and 9 from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the David Davis Mansion, Bloomington. The event is a fundraiser for the David Davis Mansion Foundation. To reserve tickets for this limited seating engagement at $150 per person, call 309-828-1084. Guests will dine in the mansion's formal dining room, where the table will be set with heirloom china, sparkling crystal and antique silver. Service will begin with wassail, followed by six lavish courses. At the end of the evening, guests will withdraw to the formal parlor to enjoy traditional Christmas music and games and open gifts that were fashionable during the Gilded Age. Stories about the "ghosts of Christmases past," including tales about Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, will add to the atmosphere.

Christmas celebration, Dec. 9 -- Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic Site, Springfield, 217-524-0901

A Christmas celebration featuring poetry readings, storytelling and seasonal decorations will be from noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Vachel Lindsay Home, 603 S. Fifth St. in Springfield. The event is free and open to the public. Several selections of Lindsay poetry with a Christmas or New Year's theme will be read by high school students. At 2 p.m., storyteller Roberta Codemo will spin tales of Christmases past for children of all ages. Piano music will fill the house throughout the afternoon. Staff and volunteers in each room will interpret the history of the house. The home will be decorated for the holidays, and visitors will receive candy canes and souvenir copies of Lindsay's Christmas poetry. Spiced tea and cookies will be served.

Christmas open house, Dec. 9 -- Vandalia Statehouse State Historic Site, Vandalia, 618-283-1161

1830s rooms illuminated by candlelight will highlight the annual Christmas open house scheduled for Dec. 9 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Vandalia Statehouse, the oldest remaining Capitol building in Illinois. The Statehouse where Abraham Lincoln served as a state representative from 1836 to 1839 will be trimmed with 1800s decorations, including fresh greenery, fruits and nuts. Staff and volunteers in period clothing will greet visitors. Period music will be provided, and the first 100 families will receive a free handmade Christmas ornament. Cookies and cider will be served. The event is free and open to the public.

Christmas Remembrance, Dec. 9 -- Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Springfield, 217-782-2717

The 74 soldiers still listed as prisoners of war or missing in action in Southeast Asia will be remembered at a special ceremony Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. at the Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Springfield's Oak Ridge Cemetery. During the 19th annual Christmas Remembrance, handmade red and white heart-shaped ornaments will be hung by family and friends on the tree planted for this purpose near the memorial. Each ornament bears the name of one of the 74 Illinois POWs or MIAs. Members of the general public may also bring a weatherproof ornament to hang on the tree. A brief program will feature Christmas music. The event is free and open to the public.

Christmas at Apple River Fort, Dec. 9 and 10 -- Apple River Fort State Historic Site, Elizabeth, 815-858-2028

The holidays as observed at a Black Hawk War-era fort will be re-enacted during Christmas at Apple River Fort on Dec. 9 and 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Costumed interpreters will demonstrate winter activities such as wooden toy carving, firewood splitting, candle dipping and sausage making and will present the sometimes controversial ideas from the 1830s about celebrating Christmas as a holiday. Visitors should be prepared to help the settlers with winter chores such as firewood splitting and sausage making, or join the militia officers and their wives as they prepare for a Christmas ball. Hot cider will be served, and visitors can make 19th-century Christmas ornaments in the interpretive center. The event is free and open to the public.

Holiday open house and 150th anniversary celebration, Dec. 10 -- Bryant Cottage State Historic Site, Bement, 217-678-8184

Period holiday decorations and music will highlight a holiday open house and 150th anniversary celebration on Dec. 10 at Bryant Cottage, which was built in 1856 for early Bement businessman and political leader Francis Bryant, a close friend of Stephen A. Douglas. The cottage will be decorated by the artistic team of Petals & Porch Posts from Bement in honor of the 150th anniversary, and guests may view the cottage by candle and lamplight from 5 to 7 p.m. Sarah Bryant, portrayed by Peggy Wells, and the Bryants' daughter Mary Eliza will greet visitors that evening. Handmade Christmas ornaments (one per family) will be given to the first 50 families who visit during the open house. Period holiday music will be provided. Visitors are encouraged to view a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments made by local first-graders. The holiday open house is free and open to the public.

Family Night, Dec. 15; extended tours, Dec. 16; and Luminaria Evening, Dec. 17 -- Dana-Thomas House State Historic Site, Springfield, 217-782-6776

Dec. 15 from 4 to 8 p.m. is Family Night at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Dana-Thomas House. The site hours on Dec. 16 and 17 will be 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., with live music filling the house during the afternoon and evening. Evening tours allow the public to see this pristine example of Wright's American architecture with its 100-year-old 1904-era light levels and to enjoy the many illuminated holiday trees and decorations. The season's most popular event at the Dana-Thomas House, Luminaria Evening, will be Dec. 17 from 4 to 8 p.m. One thousand candles in paper sacks will line the sidewalks and horizontal ledges of the sprawling, 12,600-square-foot Prairie style structure.

Christmas at the Mansions, Dec. 16 -- Three historic mansions in Bloomington-Normal, 309-828-1084
Fee and advance reservations required.

Three of Bloomington-Normal's most significant, historic mansions will feature evening holiday tours and shuttle transportation for one low price on Dec. 16. Tickets for the tours are $8 per person and may be purchased at Casey's, The Garlic Press, Schnucks Supermarket, Engraving Express and the David Davis Mansion. The three mansions -- David Davis Mansion State Historic Site, 1000 E. Monroe, Bloomington; Broadview Mansion, 1301 S. Fell Ave., Normal; and the Vrooman Mansion, 701 E. Taylor, Bloomington -- will be festooned with vintage Christmas decorations and open for special Christmas evening tours from 4 to 9 p.m. Gourmet holiday foods will be served at the Vrooman and Davis mansions. The Davis Mansion tour will also feature seasonal music and costumed guides who will show visitors what a Victorian Christmas celebration was like when the Davis family lived there. Christmas at the Mansions is a fundraising event benefiting Immanuel Bible Foundation, the David Davis Mansion and Faith in Action.

Julotta, Dec. 25 -- Bishop Hill State Historic Site, Bishop Hill, 309-927-3345

Visitors are invited to ring in Christmas Day the traditional Swedish way at the Julotta nondenominational service beginning at 6 a.m. Dec. 25 at Bishop Hill. The service will be at the restored 1848 Colony Church. Christmas morning in Sweden begins with the Julotta service, and since 1970 the Julotta at the Colony Church has reaffirmed the Swedish heritage of this historic community. The service will be conducted in both Swedish and English. Since the Colony Church is not heated, those planning to attend should dress warmly. Coffee and rusks will be served following the service. The event is free and open to the public.

Children's Story Hour, Dec. 28 -- Dana-Thomas House State Historic Site, Springfield, 217-782-6776

A popular and traditional holiday activity returns to the Dana-Thomas House with Children's Story Hour on Dec. 28. The event is reminiscent of the times 100 years ago when Susan Lawrence Dana would invite children into her home for reading and fun. This year's storyteller will be Dan Keding of Urbana, and sessions will be at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. Each child will receive a treat at the end of the session. The event is free but space is limited, so reservations are required. Each session lasts about 45 minutes.

La Guiannee, Dec. 31 -- Fort de Chartres State Historic Site, Prairie du Rocher, 618-284-7230

The New Year's celebration that was started in 1722 by some of the state's earliest settlers will be observed Dec. 31 at Fort de Chartres. La Guiannee, the traditional French New Year's celebration, runs from 7 to 10 p.m. at the fort. Traditional French holiday carols will be sung and refreshments served. In a tradition dating back to the early 1700s, the La Guiannee singers will then visit houses in the early French town of Prairie du Rocher and sing for the residents. As part of the tradition, the residents provide refreshments for the singers. The event is free and open to the public.

First Night Period Ball, Dec. 31 -- Old State Capitol State Historic Site, Springfield, 217-785-7960

The glamour of women twirling in hoop skirts on the arms of dashing gentlemen will be re-created during the First Night Period Ball on New Year's Eve at the Old State Capitol in downtown Springfield. The dancing will be in full swing from 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 31 in the Old State Capitol's Hall of Representatives. The ball is free and open to the public, and is part of the First Night Springfield celebration. Visitors are invited to tour the candlelit building that evening and enjoy the historic holiday atmosphere. Other events in downtown Springfield that evening require First Night admission. For more information on the First Night schedule and admission prices, visit

For more information on state historic sites, visit

[Illinois Historic Preservation Agency news release]


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