The Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum offers an enchanting and historic view of holidays past. December 15 through January 6, 2013, holiday tours at WDS demonstrate with fascinating detail how the American holiday season evolved over the past three centuries. Delighting the senses and captivating the imagination, the 60-minute guided tours include the museum’s three meticulously restored historic houses.
In the Silas Deane House, circa 1770, New Year’s Day was the main holiday—due to the Puritanical customs that still lingered in New England—rather than Christmas. The house reflects the preparations for the Deane’s “New Years’ Day Calling,” when prominent gentlemen in the community would call on the lady of the household. It was also the day when individuals who owed the family money would meet privately with the master of the house to settle their debts or make a New Year’s resolution to provide goods or services to settle their accounts in the coming year.
The Isaac Stevens House is decorated to depict the holiday celebrations of a middle-class household during the early to mid-1800s, when many of the Christmas traditions known today were adopted in New England. The best parlor features a charming table-top tree decorated with candles, gilded eggshells and edible treats, in keeping with the era. On the second floor a fascinating children’s exhibit features a range of toys, dolls, and games of the period.
At the Joseph Webb House visitors are dazzled by decorations typical of the early 20th century, a period of stunning decoration and celebration. The home is prepared for a Christmas open house that was typical of the times, including a sumptuous buffet in the dining parlor. The culmination of several weeks’ work, the lavishness of the dessert and decorations could make or break the hostess’ reputation. Decorations include three Christmas trees, 200 feet of evergreen roping, fresh greens, fruit, period ornaments, a fine collection of antique iron toys from the late 19th and early 20th century.
Following the tours, visitors are invited to explore the Webb-Deane-Stevens Gift Shop, which offers a bounty of timeless treasures, from elegant household items to jewelry, books, stocking stuffers, hostess and children’s gifts and more.
Three Centuries of Christmas Tours - December 15 - January 6, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Sundays, 1 - 4 p.m. Holiday tour admission - $10 per adult; $9 per senior over 60, AAA member and active military; $5 students and children (5-18), $25 per family (2 adults + children).