'Tis the Season

Last week's post has program info through Dec. 27 and the December program page has info through the 31st. If you really like to plan ahead, the January program listings are also available.

Still shopping? Your favorite Trails of History sites offer unique gifts in their museum stores. And through December 31, the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation (PHF) and The State Museum of Pennsylvania are offering a "Buy One Get One Free" membership deal. Renew, rejoin, or join, and you can gift a free membership of equal or lesser value to a friend, family member, or co-worker. Memberships included in this offer are Heritage, Individual, and Family (visit PHF website for details or to purchase online). All categories of membership include free regular admission to sites on the Pennsylvania Trails of History. (Please note, the gift membership must be for individuals or families who have never held a membership with PHF or The State Museum previously.)

It has been a busy December on the Trails of History. There were lots of holiday programs, but that's not the only news to report. But we'll get to that.

Holiday Programs

Somerset Historical Center held their third annual Ethnic Traditions Program, in which Somerset County residents present foods and customs from a variety of cultures. This year's presenters included Sotiris Aggelou, born in Greece; Anna Thomas, born in India; Grete Lowery, born in Austria, and her daughter Margot (Knupp) Daniels; Mark and Dianna Smith, descendants of 19th-century Irish, Scottish, and German immigrants to Pennsylvania; and Jamie Barron, whose great grandparents came to the U.S. from Stenico, a small village in the Italian Alps. All shared stories and most shared food (the Smiths played Scottish music) with program attendees. A printed program included information about each presenter and their traditions and introduced attendees to PHMC's 21st Century Museums Initiative.

Grounds of Pennsbury Manor lit by lanterns and luminaries.
Holly Nights at Pennsbury Manor, 2018 (from Facebook)
Pennsbury Manor's annual Holly Nights event (see Facebook photo album) is a longstanding tradition for many southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey families. Columnist JD Mullane had this to say in the Dec. 9 Intelligencer, after lamenting several unsuccessful attempts to create holiday memories with the kids:
But then the other night in Falls, I realized that we still have one family Christmas tradition of the variety I tried so hard to create — Holly Night at Pennsbury Manor, two nights always held the first week of December.

We’ve taken the kids to Gov. William Penn’s recreated summer house on the Delaware River since they were babies, and only because it was an inexpensive family outing, and always at Mrs. Mullane’s request. I took her there when we were still boyfriend and girlfriend. Despite nearly 20 years of Holly Nights, our kids still look forward to it — the paths lit by luminaries, pine and wood smoke on crisp night air. The dining room table set for an 18th century feast in the candle-lit manor house. The bell choir playing, the U.S. Steel Chorus, today called the Men of Harmony, performing “Little Drummer Boy.” (A bonus that received an extra ovation from the audience last week: three Men of Steel from the original choir are still singing). And the finale: tossing a sprig of evergreen into the small fire for good luck in the new year, and sipping hot apple cider.

Family traditions bring identity, unity and warmth, whether it’s Holly Night or finding the perfect tree at the farm. But you can’t force them, no matter how enticing and sentimental. There has to be some sort of magic in them that you can feel, but really can’t explain.

Bonfire at Landis Valley Museum.
Carols around the bonfire at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum (via Facebook)
 Yet another firelit holiday event is Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum's Bonfire Night, which welcomes visitors for the price of some nonperishable donations for a local food bank. This year the weather was a bit damp and foggy, but many people still stopped by, including photographer Jennifer MacNeill, a regular at LVM events (see her album of Bonfire Night photos here).

2 big kids on Santa's lap at Bushy Run Battlefield
Kids of all shapes and sizes enjoyed the Christmas program at Bushy Run Battlefield (photo Michael Tusay)

Other December Happenings

The annual Pearl Harbor remembrance took place at the Pennsylvania Military Museum on Dec. 7. The museum shared images on their Facebook page (below) and WTAJ provided local coverage.

The Anthracite Heritage Museum opened a new exhibit on photographers working in the anthracite region and also announced the winners of the accompanying photo contest (below). Local news highlighted one of the winners, Megan Rusonis.

And finally, we're ending the year on a high note with the announcement that several Trails of History sites will be among the honorees when PA Museums presents the 2019 Special Achievement Awards at their annual conference in April. Institutional Achievement Awards will go to: U.S. Brig Niagara/Flagship Niagara League (homeport Erie Maritime Museum) for "Waves of the Past, Sailors of the Future"; Old Economy Village for "Bringing History Alive at Old Economy Village"; and The State Museum of Pennsylvania for "Restoration and Reinterpretation of Mammal Hall." Sarah Buffington, curator at Old Economy Village, and Hope W. Kopf, volunteer at Joseph Priestley House, will be honored with Individual Awards recognizing their contributions and good work. Visit the PA Museums website for the full list of honorees for 2019. Congratulations to all! And to all, a good night.


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