With all the hustle and bustle in our lives today; we’re over loaded with responsibilities, gadgets, advertising campaigns and reasons to part with our mighty dollar. This becomes especially prevalent at Christmas time, where there is an even greater pull for your time & money.

 

I had the privilege of attending a Lantern Light Tour at Doon Heritage Village last week. This is an event that happens only a few times before Christmas at the Museum located at Homer Watson and Huron Road in Kitchener. You may have noticed the glass facade of the Waterloo Region Museum which were selected from quilts in the museum’s collection and represent the textile heritage of Waterloo Region. The museum is located on the intersection of Huron Road and the Galt to Elmira Line of the Grand Trunk Railway. This historic crossroads is recreated within the museum floor. It was just beyond this point, where a number of local citizens gathered to embrace the beauty and simplicity of Christmas’ past.

 

Imagine if you will, the turn of the century and how Christmas was celebrated. Upon leaving the museum, you enter with a tour guide into the new gateway into Doon Heritage Village. This museum is a living history museum, designed to recreate the life and times from 1900-1914 in rural Waterloo Region. It really is like stepping back in time. Our guide leads us past the train station. There are 110 kerosene lanterns throughout the village and carried by the guides. We first walk upon freshly fallen snow through the village, over the kissing bridge, past a rural farm, beyond the general store, past the print shop and post office, the blacksmith shop, and up the hill towards the church. This home is representative of how an English/Canadian family would celebrate Christmas in 1914. The table was filled with plum puddings, shortbread cookies, Christmas cake, mincemeat pies, fruits, nuts and many extravagances. In the parlor there was a pump organ which was playing some familiar Christmas tunes. There was also a tree decorated, and the presents were hung from the branches of the tree. We heard about some of the games families would play together while enjoying the festivities and caroling that Christmas would bring. On our way out of that home, we were passed along a shortbread cookie to sample and started along our walk to our next stop.

 

The weather was superb for this event; snow lightly coming down, the glow of the lanterns against the snow was picturesque. There was caroling along the way to our next stop. We arrived at a home who was celebrating Christmas in the German/Canadian traditions. Upon entering this home, we were treated to some warm apple cider to warm our bellies and hands from our walk. When we enter the parlor, we see a Christmas tree that is set upon a table top. Around the tree is a replica of the village that we are seeing. The most surprising thing for me…..was that this Christmas tree was factory made and a fake tree. It was one of the first manufactured items in Germany at the turn of the century. We were introduced the process of making hand blown glass ornaments. Within this home, there was the celebration of the 12 days of Christmas starting on Christmas day. Apparently, young children were not able to play with their toys until the 12th day of Christmas. After looking at some ornaments, sipping our apple cider and singing a few carols all together we bid our hosts farewell and continued on our tour.

 

Our next experience was listening upon a moonlit night …. For the sound of hooves and jingle bells! We had a wagon ride throughout the village, and around the forest that surrounds the village with two Clydesdale horses named Jim and Jake. They were required to wear jingle bells on them at the turn of the century so people could hear when wagons or horses would be approaching. The view from the wagon was glorious as all of the lanterns at this point were reflecting off of the newly fallen snow. Again, we enjoyed this ride while singing “dashing through the snow….”. Once we had enjoyed our horse and wagon ride, we were dropped off in front of the General Store.

 

The general store was decorated for the holidays and was celebrating later hours, so those who were working on the farm, could still come in and purchase a few gifts for their loved ones. There were hair brushes, piggy banks, belt buckles, fresh fruits and nuts, wind up toys…. Nothing needed batteries or assembly. Brilliant! The general store did have a little bit of everything in it. It was part grocery store, part hardware store, toy store, fabric store and part farm supply. After being allowed to look and play with some of the toys, we were escorted out to our final stop.

 

We had one final trek through the village and up the hill to Freeport United Brethren Church. Upon gathering all four groups of people that were enjoying the lantern light tours, we gathered to sing Christmas songs together. There were some poems recited and much rejoicing by everyone in song. We were given a bit of history on some of the songs that were selected for us, and with musical accompaniment sang carols together to celebrate the season.

 

Far less hustle and bustle than one finds in a mall, simpler pleasures of days gone by, fantastic staff, beautiful setting…. I truly experienced the spirit of Christmas in the village. We are blessed to have this historic village in our community, and I encourage all of you to make the trek and explore it. The hours of operation are May 1 – September 6th from 10am – 4:30pm daily. In the fall, they are open Monday – Friday from 10am – 8:30pm. You may find their event listings on the website: www.waterloomuseum.com.

 

Tanja Gancevich