Holiday Traditions on the Trails of History

Holiday Traditions on the Trails of History
A lighted Christmas tree sits on a table with a red covering. A model train runs on tracks around the base of the tree. A stone wall with Cornwall Iron Furnace exhibit panels is in the background.
You can enjoy this train layout (courtesy of Brian's Model Trains) and other festive activities at Cornwall Iron Furnace this Saturday (photo via CIF Facebook page)

We're moving into the heart of holiday programming now, my friends. Some programs require advance tickets, so please be sure to read the listings carefully if you're planning to attend. Operating schedules at some sites are changing for the winter as of this week, so it's always a good idea to check ahead before visiting. I hope you'll find something on the Trails of History to help you celebrate the season in meaningful ways for you.

Up Next

Today, December 2

  • StoryTime (in-person); 10:30-11:30 am; The State Museum of PA
    • Read Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett and create a day/night wheel to explore more about the dark. For ages 2 to Pre-K and included in regular admission. Please sign up at the Ground Floor Info Desk (StoryTime info).

Saturday, December 3

  • Christmas Open House (in-person); 9 am-4 pm; Cornwall Iron Furnace
    • Enjoy guided tours of the Furnace, shop for unique gifts, look at holiday decorations, and partake of seasonal light refreshments. You may even have your photo taken with Santa in a historic setting. Included in regular admission (Cornwall Open House info).
  • Christmas at Eckley (in-person); Saturday and Sunday, 10 am-4 pm; Eckley Miners' Village
    • Holiday activities, music, food and craft vendors, and basket raffle will run from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $7 or $6 if you bring an unexpired, non-perishable food item to donate (Eckley Christmas info).
  • Home for the Holidays (in-person); 10 am-4 pm; Railroad Museum of PA
    • Enjoy the museum's exhibits and historic trains along with festive decorations, Yuletide music, Santa, and costumed interpreters. Shop for gifts in the Whistle Stop Shop and sample cookies and hot chocolate in the lobby (while supplies last). Artist-in-residence Nadine Charlsen will be at the museum Saturday and Sunday. Included in regular admission (Home for the Holidays info).
  • Holiday Mansion Tours (in-person); 11 am-8 pm; Hope Lodge
    • Guided tours will be offered at 11:30, 1, 2:30, 4, and 7 (by candlelight). After your tour, enjoy cookies and hot chocolate and browse the museum store. Tickets: $8 for adults; $5 for ages 6-17 and 65+; free for members and children age 5 and younger (Hope Lodge tour tickets).
  • Christmas at the Village (in-person); Saturday, 2-9 pm, Sunday, 2-7 pm; Old Economy Village
    • Walk along a candlelit cobblestone street and visit the historic buildings with interpreters eager to show off wares from the 19th century. Find unique handmade items for sale by vendors and enjoy music by local choirs. Children’s crafts and activities along with Belsnickel will be found in the Granary. Event runs 2-9 pm on Saturday, 2-7 pm on Sunday. The Visitor Center will be closed, so admission fees will be collected at the Village entrance. Food will be available for purchase, and there will be other activities in the surrounding historic district (Christmas at the Village info).

Sunday, December 4

  • Christmas Open House (in-person); Noon-4 pm; Conrad Weiser Homestead
    • Enjoy self-guided tours of the site on the last open day of 2022. Books will be 10% off in the museum store, the perfect place to shop for the history lovers in your life (Weiser Open House info).
  • Artists Conversations Gallery Tour (in-person); 2-3 pm; The State Museum of PA
    • Fine arts curator Amy Hammond will be joined by selected artists for a tour of the 2022 "Art of the State" exhibition. Included in regular admission (Art of the State Gallery Tour).
  • Ethnic Traditions (in-person); 5:30-8:30 pm; Somerset Historical Center*
    • Learn about the diverse cultural backgrounds of Somerset County residents. This year's event features food and other traditions of India, Sweden, and Chile. Dinner is $25 per person ($135 for a table of 6). *Event takes place at Friedens Lutheran Church (Ethnic Traditions dinner tickets and info).

Wednesday, December 7

  • Explore! (in-person); 11:30 am-12:30 pm; The State Museum of PA
    • Explore the history and science of candle making. Create two different types of candles to enjoy as the nights get longer. For grades 3-5 and included in regular admission. Space is limited, so please sign up at the Ground Floor Info Desk when you arrive (Explore! info).
  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Tribute (in-person); 12:45-1:30 pm; PA Military Museum
    • The tribute ceremony is held beneath the guns of the battleship USS PENNSYLVANIA, which was a witness to the Imperial Japanese Navy's attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Hawai'i. Guided tours and light refreshments available in the museum theater following the ceremony (Pearl Harbor Tribute info). While you're at the museum, be sure to see the USS Pennsylvania Ships Orders from Dec. 7, 1941, currently on temporary display.

Thursday, December 8

  • Family Gallery Tour: Paleontology (in-person); 11:30 am-12:30 pm; The State Museum of PA
    • Join Museum Educators to get hands-on with fossils of the plants and animals that roamed Earth during the Carboniferous Period to the present including dinosaurs and mastodons. Included in regular admission (Paleontology tour info).

Friday, December 9

  • Learn at Lunchtime (virtual); 12:15-12:45 pm; The State Museum of PA
    • Dr. Houping Liu, forest entomologist with the PA Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources, will talk about the Eastern hemlock tree and hemlock woolly adelgid management. The program is free, but you must register to receive the link (Learn at Lunchtime info and registration).
  • Candlelight Tours (in-person); Friday and Saturday, 3-6 pm; Pennsbury
    • Candlelight tours of the Manor House will be offered at 3, 4, and 5 pm. Regular admission charged. Reservations are encouraged but not required. Also offered Friday and Saturday, Dec. 16 and 17 (Candlelight Tour info).
  • Holiday Bonfire (in-person); 6-8 pm; Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum
    • This annual event features a festive bonfire, music, refreshments, and good cheer. The event is free; please bring a non-perishable food item for the Lancaster County Food Hub (Holiday Bonfire info).

Advance Tickets or Registrations

  • Adult and Children's Holiday Workshops (in-person); Saturday, Dec. 10, 10 am-Noon; Pennsbury Manor
    • Separate workshops for adults and children (age 5-12) will run simultaneously. Adults will learn to make several types of ornaments (materials included in $35 workshop fee). Children will decorate gingerbread cookies, create a gnome ornament, and enjoy storytime with Father Christmas (pay what you wish - $10 donation suggested). Call 215/946-0400 to reserve for either or both (Pennsbury workshop info).
  • Holidays at Hope Lodge & Colonial Tavern (in-person); Saturday, Dec. 10, 11 am-4 pm; Hope Lodge
    • Enjoy a self-guided tour of the mansion with holiday decorations and music by members of the Ambler Symphony Orchestra (noon-2 pm). Tickets are $8 for ages 12 and up, free for members and children younger than 12. Purchase tickets at the door or online via Eventbrite. For an additional charge, visitors age 21+ can also taste seasonal craft beers from Round Guys Brewing Co. (Holidays at Hope Lodge tickets).
  • Christmas at the Cloister (in-person); Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 12 and 13, 6:30-8 pm; Ephrata Cloister
    • Spend a few moments in quiet reflection with seasonal readings and music in the historic Saal. Two programs each night, one starting at 6:30 and the other at 8:00. Seating is limited (tickets are selling out) and advance tickets are required (Christmas at the Cloister tickets). UPDATE 12/5/22: tickets are sold out for all but the 8 pm performance on 12/12. UPDATE: 12/6/22 - additional tickets have been added for 8 pm Dec. 12 and both performances on Dec. 13.
  • Ornament Workshop (virtual); Wednesday, Dec. 14, 6:30-8 pm
    • This virtual workshop will teach you how to make two different ornaments using festive paper and fabric. $10 fee includes materials; you can pick them up at the Visitor Center or they can be mailed to you for an additional $2 fee. Registration deadline is Dec. 5 if you need materials mailed (Virtual Ornament Workshop info).
  • Late Nite with the Belsnickle! (in-person); Friday, Dec. 16, 7-9 pm; Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum
    • Holiday-themed crafts, PA Dutch traditions, a visit with Belsnickle, and an adult beverage. Must be at least 21 to attend. Event is rain or shine; dress for the weather, including shoes appropriate for walking the site. Tickets are $40 (Late Nite info and tickets).
  • Meet Belsnickel (in-person); Saturday, Dec. 17, Noon-2 pm; Old Economy Village
    • Belsnickel is a PA Dutch tradition, sort a grumpy version of Santa Claus. Children will go on a scavenger hunt, make a craft, have a snack, and find out if they're on Belsnickel's naughty or nice list. Come and go as you please during the two-hour program. Admission is free, but registration is required (OEV Belsnickel registration).
  • Putz'n and Brutz'n with the Belsnickle! (in-person); Saturday, Dec. 17, 1-3 pm; Landis Valley Vilage & Farm Museum
    • This family-friendly event includes a walking tour, making a punched tin ornament, light refreshments, a visit with the Belsnickle, and more. The program will be held rain or shine, so please dress for the weather with appropriate shoes. Tickets are $30 for people age 8 and up, $20 for ages 3-7. Space is limited, and reservations are required (LVM Family Belsnickle event).
  • Lantern Tours (in-person); Tuesday, Dec. 27, thru Friday, Dec. 30, 6-8 pm; Ephrata Cloister
    • This theatrical style program is led by the Student Historians, local high school students who take on the roles of people from history as the story unfolds in selected historic buildings. This year visitors will join Mrs. Fahnestock as she plans the wedding of an Ephrata Sister and a young man working for the Brothers. This light-hearted look at the past will provide enjoyment for the entire family. Advance tickets are required: $12 for adults, $9 for ages 6-17 (Lantern Tours info and tickets).


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