Archive for Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wyandotte County Museum shows Christmas through the ages

December 24, 2008

The Christmas season is filled with many different traditions but, for a lot of those, their origins are somewhat of a mystery.

Did you ever wonder where the first Christmas tree came from? Do you remember the story behind the Christmas pickle? Or how about what to do with a peppermint pig?

The Wyandotte County Museum wants to answer those questions for you with its annual “Christmas Through the Ages” exhibit, which will be on display through Jan. 3 at the museum, 631 N. 126th St.

The exhibit showcases Christmas trees decorated with artifacts from various generations from the 1800s to the present.

“What we wanted to do was show Christmas and how it’s changed through the years. both nationally and locally,” said museum Director Patricia Schurkamp.

Schurkamp said the trees and the paragraphs of information beside them showed how Christmas traditions had changed throughout history and during significant historic events. For example, in 1970, the White House’s Christmas tree only had one light lit up. Schurkamp said this was because the country was in an energy crisis and President Jimmy Carter didn’t want to waste energy but had the one light to remember hostages in Iran at the time.

In addition to the decades of Christmas trees, there are several stories that share the origins of some Christmas traditions.

“(The exhibit) gives people an opportunity to look back on the traditions and them pass on to children,” Schurkamp said. “It makes sure those stories and traditions are kept alive.”

The Christmas pickle, Schurkamp said, came from the German community. A pickle was placed in the Christmas tree while the children were sleeping, and in the morning, the children searched for the pickle, and the first one to find it got a gift.

“This was to teach the children that there is beauty within the tree and not to focus on just the presents,” she said.

As for the first Christmas tree, Schurkamp said that dated back to 1776, but that its popularity didn’t reach the United States until the 1840s when a drawing of England’s Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree was shown in a magazine.

The story of the peppermint pig is a tradition that Schurkamp said many people didn’t know about, and in fact, today those pigs can only be bought in a store in New York.

The pink, peppermint pig comes in a velvet bag with a hammer. On Christmas, a family passes the pig around and each makes a wish or dream with the pig, and when it gets to the last person, the pig is smashed into pieces. Then the pig makes another lap around the table so everyone can take a piece and not only have their wish but share in the dreams of others.

“It is just fun and enjoyable and a different way of looking at Christmas,” she said. “People can step back and look at the beauty of it all.”

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