This year has brought a lot of changes to how we host events at the museum, with many things cancelled or made virtual. However, we decided to put on an on-site holiday experience as a source of joy for our local community. Instead of the Museum’s annual Candlelight Tour, a community event that usually draws crowds in the hundreds in close proximity in the museum and on the grounds, we decided to put together a Drive Through Christmas Village in order to provide a safer holiday experience for our local community in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
The inspiration for the museum’s “Christmas Village” theme was the miniature porcelain Christmas Village decorations that many families traditionally use to decorate their homes with during the holiday season. The Christmas villages themselves have historic roots in North Carolina. The tradition of decorative Christmas villages built around the Christmas tree is rooted in the late 18th century holiday traditions of the Moravian church, a Protestant denomination with early settlements in Salem, North Carolina. The decorative Christmas villages spread in popularity in the 20th century resulting in the porcelain villages we are still familiar with today.
The Tobacco Farm Life Museum’s holiday decor reflects these simple yet elegant Christmas villages as well as the historic decorative style of the time period interpreted at the museum (1880s-1950s). Our decorations also add a rustic element by being placed on our 100-year-old farmstead buildings and other reproduction buildings. The original historic buildings would have been lightly decorated, if at all, using natural foliage like holly, magnolia leaves, and pine. Before electricity, lit candles would have adorned a live tree and fruit and nuts would have been the main treats given to children. Today we preserve these buildings and decorate them in historically appropriate ways, which also helps us to prevent fires by not overloading the electricity that was added to some of these buildings in their later years.
The Museum decorations were also inspired by our natural surroundings as we sought to celebrate the Carolina pine trees that surround our museum through our “enchanted forest” area lights.
Our traditional village gives way to holiday whimsy and the joys of childhood holidays at our gingerbread pack house covered in candy and adjacent ice-skating rink and Santa’s Workshop on our stage area.
Volunteers (in family groups) stationed at the museum’s historic buildings help bring the village scenes to life, including children skating at the ice rink, a living nativity, a teacher and her pupils in the schoolhouse, and blacksmiths working the forge in our farm workshop. Be sure to look for these villagers as you enjoy the decorations.
All of the decorations were also inspired by the resourcefulness we know the farmers whose lives we interpret at the museum used to survive. Most of the decorations were made by our museum’s staff and by a team of dedicated volunteers using materials donated by community partners. We are very proud of this volunteer effort and the support of our community members. Thank you to everyone who has made this event possible—it represents the very spirit of the holiday season.
Visitors are able to drive through the grounds of the Tobacco Farm Life Museum and enjoy the Christmas Village come to life from the comfort of their own vehicles. Ticket proceeds support the mission of the museum: to preserve and present the history of the rural farming community of Eastern North Carolina.
The Kenly Area Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Kenly are partnering with the museum to bring our community a safe holiday event this year. Downtown Kenly businesses are also be decorated for the season and we encourage you to drive through Kenly for the full experience.
For ticket information please visit www.tobaccofarmlifemuseum.org/christmasvillage. We hope you can join us for the last two nights of the Christmas Village Drive Through this Friday and Saturday, December 11th & 12th, from 5 to 8 pm each evening. Thank you!