This year, the Oak Hill mansion has been decorated in a manner that the Berry Family of the late 19th century would recognize—decorations reflect the traditions and tastes of the Victorian era, and tours will highlight the customs that would have been familiar to Martha Berry. Guests will hear how Christmas came to be celebrated in the United States and learn about the unique traditions found in Southern households of the time.
“Martha Berry grew up in the early days of Christmas in America,” said Rachel McLucas, curator of the Martha Berry Museum. “In some ways, it was starkly different from our own celebrations, but we can see the beginnings of the holiday as we know it in modern times.”
The Christmas that everyone celebrates today, seems like a timeless weaving of customs and charity. Yet the familiar mix of carols, cards, presents, trees, Santa Claus and holiday neuroses that have come to define Dec. 25 in America is little more than a hundred years old.
Americans did not even begin to think of Christmas as a national holiday until the middle of the 19th century. Like many other such ‘inventions of tradition’, the creation of an American Christmas was a response to social and personal needs that arose at a particular point in history, in this case a time of sectional conflict and civil war, as well as the unsettling processes of urbanization and industrialization. The holiday’s new customs and meanings helped the nation to make sense of the confusions of the era and to secure, if only for a short while each year, a soothing feeling of unity.
In this tour, you will glimpse a snapshot through time as when Martha Berry celebrated the holiday, complete with all the furnishings and festivities of the time.
Tours will be offered at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets cost $5 for adults and $2 for students, and children under 5 are free. Tickets must be reserved in advance by calling 706-368-6776 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Parking is provided at Oak Hill & The Martha Berry Museum.