Photography by Andrew Pankratz
Communities across the state hold nostalgic Christmas and holiday events
The nostalgia of traditional Christmas celebrations will be on display for visitors to enjoy during the Heritage Center’s Old-Fashioned Christmas celebrations December 3–4 (2022) in Abilene.
Open year-round, the Heritage Center contains the C.W. Parker Carousel National Historic Landmark, the Museum of Independent Telephony, and the buildings and grounds of the Dickinson County Historical Museum, which includes an 1857 one-room log cabin and The Village, several buildings replicating late 19th-century Abilene.
Most of the Christmas festivities will be outdoors in The Village, illuminated by strung bulbs glowing above and old-time lanterns and luminarias leading visitors to the cabin, barn, general store, schoolhouse, and carousel building, all adorned with greenery, red bows, decorated Christmas trees, and hundreds of twinkling lights.
Committee chair Cindy Wedel says several visitors last year remarked that walking through the museum’s back door into The Village was like stepping into another world.
“It is a place where they can imagine Christmases of the past if they let themselves,” Wedel says. A living nativity presentation, complete with live animals, brings to life the story of Jesus’ birth. Children can explore the one-room schoolhouse where they can create simple crafts. Visitors can shop for homemade fudge and locally milled flour inside the historic grocery store.
Music rings through the air, including a hammer dulcimer accompanied by guitar, a four-part harmony gospel singing group, a brass ensemble, and a string trio of fiddle, banjo and guitar. In addition, holiday carolers roam the grounds as the smell of popcorn fills the air and Christmas carols play from the historic band organ when visitors ride on the 1901 hand-carved C.W. Parker carousel.
“The event has all the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas,” Wedel says. “That’s our mission, to educate and help the community and visitors enjoy what we have to offer. But it’s also about the holiday spirit; people left last year feeling better than when they came, as the stress of holiday busyness is forgotten for a time.”
The Heritage Center’s Old Fashioned Christmas is part of the city-wide Cowtown Christmas that includes the Heritage Homes Association’s Homes for the Holidays Tour, a special run of the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad excursion train with Santa aboard, tours of the historic Seelye Mansion decorated with 60 trees and hundreds of nutcrackers, a live production of The Christmas Schooner at the Great Plains Theatre, a Griswold-style Christmas Light Showdown, and other events in Old Abilene Town and the downtown area.
WANT MORE? DON'T MISS THESE ANNUAL HOLIDAY EVENTS
CHRISTMAS CITY OF THE HIGH PLAINS
Since 1950, WaKeeney has opened the Christmas season on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving with a festive tree-lighting ceremony. The centerpiece tree stands at 35 feet and holds more than 3,000 lights. The tree and downtown lights remain lit each evening until after New Year’s Day.
CHRISTMAS AT THE MILL
Live entertainment, children’s crafts, and a theatrical performance are part of the Old Fashioned Christmas on the Old Mill Museum grounds in Lindsborg on December 10. oldmillmuseum.org / 785.227.3595
One of the nation’s largest parades of horses and authentic historical wagons takes place again in Lawrence this year on December 3. The free event brings thousands into the city’s historic downtown for the 11 a.m. parade start.
lawrencechristmasparade.org / 785.856.4437
The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve kicks off the holiday season on November 26 as staff dressed in historic costumes prepare for the upcoming holiday as the aroma of cinnamon and cedar drifts through the newly rehabilitated 141-year-old house. Join in the singing of Christmas carols in the parlor. Kids may opt to make paper snowflakes or decorate salt dough cookies for the Christmas tree.
nps.gov/tapr / 620.273.8494