Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas on Prairie Avenue: Nineteenth Century Style

This Christmas card depicts the Glessner House decorated for the holiday.
When Prairie Avenue was home to the “sifted few” back in the late nineteenth century, Christmas wasn’t the extravagant celebration it is today. Oh, sure, they exchanged gifts and had parties, but home decorations weren’t as elaborate or displayed as long as they are today. In fact, it wasn’t until fairly late into the 19th century before Christmas trees displayed were over three-feet tall. During most of the century, small table-top trees were the norm. Decorations for the tree were often hand-made, even on Prairie Avenue!

Tasteful Celebration
The Glessner House at 1800 S. Prairie, and one of the few surviving mansions from those glory days, helps shed some light on the Christmas traditions of the period. If you were to visit the home during the 1888 celebration, you’d have seen a small tree in the schoolroom, where Glessner children George and Fanny would have had it displayed on their desktop. For many years, holiday decorations were displayed mostly in the schoolroom. In later years, the Glessners had a large tree shipped by train from their estate in New Hampshire. The tree was displayed in the main hallway of the home. When you visit the museum today, you’ll see a large tree in the main hall. You’ll also see greenery tastefully hung throughout the house, as illustrated in the photograph here.

Collectable Christmas Cards
If you haven’t sent your Christmas cards yet, there’s still time. And you can purchase the Christmas card seen here at the Glessner House Museum gift shop. For information on these collectable Christmas cards call 312.326.1480. And for more insight into nineteenth life along Prairie Avenue, visit the official blog of the Glessner House Museum, The Story of House. You can also find the Glessner House Museum on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

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