A Historical Holiday Season

Several Minnesota Historical Society sites will host a variety of events this holiday season. Upcoming events include:

• A Victorian Christmas will be held at the Alexander Ramsey House - 265 S. Exchange St. in St. Paul, starts Dec. 1 and continues every Wednesday through Sunday through Dec. 26 (except Dec. 25).

The grand Christmas tree is decorated with original 1870s family ornaments, the dining room table is set for a lavish meal and pine garlands adorn the front porch and grand staircase.

Hour-long tours led by costumed guides incorporate tidbits from family letters and diaries, while holiday music is played on the 1875 Steinway piano and a costumed Ramsey servant serves freshly baked Christmas cookies.

Held 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, and noon to 3 p.m. Sundays. The cost is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and college students, $5 for children ages 6-17; $2 discount for MHS members. Reservations required; call 651-296-8760 or go to http://tickets.mnhs.org.

• Horse Drawn Carriage Rides offered Dec. 18. Visit Irvine Park the old-fashioned way. A horse-drawn carriage from the Hitching Company will leave from the front gate of the Alexander Ramsey House for a ride around the historic Irvine Park district.

A costumed interpreter will join the riders to talk about the history of the neighborhood and the park. The carriage leaves every 15 minutes with a new group of riders.

Tickets will be available at the Alexander Ramsey House's gift shop and online. Reservations are highly recommended; call 651-296-8760.

Held noon to 4 p.m., rides leave every 15 minutes. The fee is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and college students, $8 for children ages 3-17; $2 discount for MHS members. (Ramsey House tours not included)

• Kwanzaa Family Day celebration will take place at the Minnesota History Center - 345 Kellogg Blvd W. in St. Paul, Dec. 26.

Join family and friends in this annual "festival of the first fruits" celebration. Program highlights include: storytelling; a fashion showcase featuring traditional African styles as well as American; the Tiyumba Dance Company; and an art activity where visitors can make a colorful collage.

For more information call 651-259-3000. The Kwanzaa festivities will be held noon to 4 p.m. The fee is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and college students, $5 for children ages 6-17; free for children age 5 and under and MHS members.

• An "'Eventually' Christmas: Holidays at the Mill," production will be held at Mill City Museum - 704 S. Second Street in Minneapolis, Dec. 11, 12, 18 and 19.

This unique play performed in the museum's Flour Tower elevator ride features "The Ghost of Mill City Past" as he takes the audience on a visit to the 1920 Washburn Crosby holiday party. The script is based on real stories taken from the pages of the company's employee newspaper.

Scenes unfold on different floors of the mill and visitors will meet different characters along the way. This piece is written by playwright Joseph Scrimshaw, directed by Laura Salveson, and stars a cast of professional Twin Cities' actors.

Held at 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. The fee is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and college students, $10 for children ages 6-17 and MHS members.

Reservations required; call 612-341-7555.

• Hill House Holidays will be featured at the James J. Hill House - 240 Summit Ave. in St. Paul, Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19 and 26. The bustle and excitement of a Gilded Age Christmas is brought to life as the servants of the James J. Hill House prepare for the holidays.

Costumed actors portray people who worked for the Hill family in a dramatized portrayal of servant life and holiday preparations at the Hill family's Summit Avenue mansion.

The one-hour program moves through the elegant first floor spaces and then to the basement servant work areas. The script is based on letters and oral histories of people who worked for the Hill family during the first decade of the 20th century.

The will take place from 1 to 3:30 and begin every 30 minutes. The fee is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, $6 for children ages 6-17; $2 discount for MHS members. Reservations recommended; call 651-297-2555.

• Relax into the Holidays, Dec. 5. A special James J. Hill House tour will focus on the many ways the Hill family and their servants, ca. 1891-1921, found ways to celebrate the Christmas and New Year's season with elaborate entertaining and simple pleasures. After the tour, gather in the elegant drawing room where Beth Freschi, a mental-health-care professional will lead an hour-long relaxation session using modern-day relaxation techniques.

Tour is at 5 p.m.; class is at 6 p.m. The fee is $12; $10 for MHS members. Reservations recommended; call 651-297-2555.

• "The Camel's Back," will be performed Dec. 11 and 12 at the James J. Hill House. Written in 1920, "The Camel's Back" was the third F. Scott Fitzgerald story published in the Saturday Evening Post.

Fitzgerald had returned to St. Paul for Christmas in 1919 and heard about a wild night at a Christmas costume party at Louis Hill's house. That party, and certain St. Paul residents, were the inspiration for the tale.

The story will be performed by The Erstwhilists, a local company of actors, musicians and foley soundstage artists who work with entertainment mediums of the past. The play features original live music in addition to a host of sound effects. The performances will take place at 6 and 8 p.m. on Saturday; 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The fee is $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, children ages 6-17 and MHS members. Reservations recommended; call 651-297-2555.

• "Victorian Christmas Stories" will take place at the James J. Hill House Dec. 19 and 26.

Costumed actors will bring 19th-century Christmas literature to life with warmth and humor in this reader's theater performance of holiday stories, including works by Mark Twain and Willa Cather, O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi," and selections from Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

The performers will discuss the development of popular Christmas traditions, including Christmas literature, during the 19th century.

Admission to the one-hour program includes light refreshments and tours of the Hill House, decorated for the holidays, following the performance. Held at 6 p.m. The fee is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and college students, $6 for children age 17 and under; $2 discount for MHS members. Reservations recommended; call 651-297-2555.

• A Story Time Tour is planned Dec. 28. Visitors will take a special hour-long tour of the James J. Hill House designed for younger visitors while enjoying popular turn-of-the-century children's stories.

The children will listen to well-known works such as "Twas the Night Before Christmas," and lesser-known stories such as "How Santa Filled the Christmas Stockings."

This program is designed for pre-school through first-grade children accompanied by an adult. Held at 10 a.m. The fee is $5 per person; $3 for MHS members. Reservations recommended; call 651-297-2555.

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