The to-do lists and shopping centers can wait.
How about devoting a weekend to more of a holiday heritage experience? Do yourself a favor — forego the check-out lines for a cup of wassail and a plate of traditional German cookies. Two Alamance County historic sites will host Colonial holiday events Dec. 7 and 8.
Sample authentic German fare cooked over an open hearth as it was done in the 18th century at Alamance Battleground on Saturday. Two miles away, the Alamance County Historical Museum will host its annual greenery sale and Christmas Open House, both Saturday and Sunday. A Victorian High Tea will be served on Sunday.
Read below for more about what each site will offer.
German Christmas in Colonial Carolina
Let’s face it, food is enticing. Especially holiday food.
So it’s no surprise that it’s prominently featured in the holiday event at Alamance Battleground. What may be surprising, though, is its focus on German culture and traditions. That’s because there were sizable German communities in the Carolinas during the Colonial era. By the 1770s, Germans migrated to the backcountry of North Carolina from their original settlements in Pennsylvania. Their traditions and culture are still evident in the region today.
A local husband-wife team that makes up Wooden Ram Cookery will prepare German fare the way it was cooked in the 18th century — over an open hearth. Other food demonstrations include sauerkraut and preserve making. Kat-N-Around, a food truck specializing in authentic German food, will also sell popular favorites like bratwurst and schnitzel.
Area musicians will play dulcimer, fiddle and guitar music throughout the site. Children can decorate traditional German springerle cookies — white, anise-flavored cookies with a stamped design or picture. They can also try their hand at German paper-cutting or scherenschnitte (sharon shnitta).
About 600 people attended the event last year, according to Drew Neill, a historic interpreter for the museum. It’s the third year they’ve hosted this holiday event.
“We thought it would be a neat, different way to explore the season,” he says. “It’s nice to see the site truly come alive with the different activities going on. Everybody loves Christmas, so it’s kind of a fun way to celebrate the holiday.”
Christmas Open House, Victorian Tea and more
Imagine yourself sipping tea from fine china and nibbling sweet and savory homemade treats, while perusing a collection of antique toys. As you wander, be sure to inhale deeply, to capture the scent of fresh cut fir.
The Alamance County Historical Museum has held its annual Open House and Greenery Sale for more than 20 years. Visitors will see an assortment of birds as Christmas symbols throughout the museum, which reflects this year’s theme. The greenery sale includes fresh holiday magnolia, Fraser fir and Noble fir wreaths. Live orchids and amaryllis will also be available for purchase. Many of the orchids are grown by museum volunteers, who also make the wreaths they sell.
The museum, which is housed in the historic Holt family home, is decorated in the 19th-century tradition for the holidays. The Holts, who were German, were largely responsible for starting the textile industry in Alamance County. They established the first textile mill in 1837 and eventually owned 24 mills throughout Alamance County. Thomas Holt (from the fourth generation) became the governor of North Carolina in 1891. The Holt family was well-acquainted with the Motley Moreheads, of Greensboro. Their home, Blandwood Mansion, is also a historic site.
The Holt family home reflects many German holiday traditions. A traditional German feather tree is on display each year. Feather trees were the first artificial trees, dating back to the 1800s. The branches were made from feathered goose quill feathers, which were dyed green. A display of antique and vintage toys includes famous Schoenhut articulated wooden animals.
Museum director William Vincent says many visitors purchase their holiday decorations or Christmas gifts at the open house. A variety of handmade glass-blown ornaments are available for sale, as well as Williamsburg-style plaques containing fresh fruit.
“Visitors are always enthusiastic and enjoy seeing the way the museum is decorated. It gives them ideas for their own decorations,” Vincent says. “Plus, it gives them a source to acquire some things that aren’t as readily available, like the wreaths made of magnolia leaves.”
While this is a major fundraiser for the museum, there’s no admission fee and visitors don’t pay for Sunday’s Victorian tea, which is available throughout the afternoon.
“It’s always a nice way to begin the holiday season,” Vincent says. “We look at it as a gift to the community as well.”