Take a historical perspective to bring jolly fun to your family’s holidays.
Southern California seems always interested in the future – the next cool thing, the next hot trend. Sometimes, however, it is nice to think about the past. The Christmas season is a particularly fitting occasion for this since many generations gather together to celebrate. And despite its modernistic attitude, Southern California has quite a few place that celebrate the season with a sense of history.
Adobe and a Brass Band
Long Beach’s Rancho Los Cerritos (4600 Virginia Rd., Long Beach) presents its Old Time Christmas Festival from 1-4 p.m. Dec. 11. Besides offering a glimpse of late 19th century Southern California life, the adobe will be decorated for the holiday season. Visitors can do craft projects similar to what people made during the adobe era, warm up with some cider and listen to storytellers in the Rancho’s library, a brass band playing holiday music and caroling singers. Admission is $5 and reservations are requested.
Victorian Swag and Holiday Cards
Stepping into the Grier Musser Museum (403 S. Bonnie Brae St., L.A.) near downtown L.A. is like stepping back into the 1890s. The renovated 1898 Victorian home is like a hidden passage to a bygone era. Every year, the museum gets all decorated for the holidays and hosts a Christmas House Tour (Dec. 4 this year) where guests can view vintage ornaments and other period paraphernalia, create Victorian-style holiday cards and enjoy refreshments. Tours will be given at 1 and 3 p.m., and admission is $12 adults, $6 children (checks or cash only). Call 213-413-1814 to make your reservations in advance.
Blacksmithing and DIY Ornaments
Down in the South Bay, a Victorian Christmas Weekend Celebration will be happening at the Banning Museum (401 E. M St., Wilmington) from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 3-4. Located on 20 acres of parkland, the museum was built in 1864 as the home for Phineas Banning, who founded the city of Wilmington and is known as “the Father of the Port of Los Angeles.” Entertainment at the event will echo the Victorian era, with dancers dressed in antique-style attire. There will be a live blacksmithing demonstration and kids can make “antique” ornaments in the museum’s historic barn and greet old Saint Nick. Admission is free.
Celebrating with Civil War Soldiers
Take the free horse-drawn trolley from the Banning Museum to experience “A Civil War Christmas” at the nearby Drum Barracks Civil War Museum (1052 N. Banning Blvd., Wilmington) from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 3-4. The museum is housed in a Union Army Junior Officers’ Quarters from the 1860s. Docents dressed in period attire will show you around and show off the Civil War-era memorabilia on view. You can encounter an encampment of Civil War soldiers, meet a Civil War surgeon and do crafts from that time period. A coronet brass band, parlor singers and other musicians will add to the 19th century vibe. Admission is free.
Party In Fezziwig’s Warehouse
The International Printing Museum (315 W. Torrance Blvd., Carson) puts its own unique twist on a Victorian Christmas party. Known for its interactive events, the museum will throw its annual Dickens Day Holiday Celebration from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 10-11. The party salutes the author behind that timeless story “A Christmas Carol” and the museum will be decked out to resemble Fezziwig’s warehouse from the story. Visitors can interact with Dickens’ characters such as Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodger, enjoy traditional English food and make holiday cards on the museum’s vintage printing presses. A highlight is when an actor portraying Charles Dickens enlists audience members to help him re-create “A Christmas Carol.” Admission to the celebration is $25 per person or $80 for a group of four. There is no additional fee for the play (which is recommended for ages 11 and older), but reservations are required for performances, which are at 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m.
Do the Time Warp
You can visit not one, not two, but three different epochs at the Holiday Lamplight Celebration at the Heritage Square Museum (3800 Homer St., L.A.). This time-traveling holiday celebration takes place Dec. 3 and 4, and tours begin at 4 p.m. each day. Begin with a trip to 1892 and partake in a Victorian-style Thanksgiving feast and play a popular parlor game from that time. Afterward, take a short walk into 1915 and be a guest at a lively Christmas party thrown by film moguls. The evening’s celebrations conclude in 1945, where you’ll swing to some ’40s dance music at a New Year’s Eve party. Guests will be led from party to party by guides who will tell stories about the Los Angeles of yesteryear. Advance reservations are required for the celebration, which is suitable for ages 6 and older. Admission is $30 adults, $15 children.
Let’s Take the Train
Back in the 1940s, train travel was still popular, and families can relive those days courtesy of the Fillmore & Western Railway (351 Santa Clara St., Fillmore). During the holiday season, the F&W runs several special excursions. The North Pole Express runs Dec. 3-4, 9-11 and 15-23, and takes travelers on an excursion to Santa’s Village. Santa Claus comes along for the ride and passengers (including kids in pajamas) can also enjoy caroling, stories, hot cocoa and cookies. (There’s also a Return Santa To The North Pole train, offering the same activities, Dec. 26.) The Dinner With Santa train Dec. 19-20 and 23 lets you have supper with Santa, and the Christmas Tree train Dec. 3-4 and 10-11 and Santa Shopper train Dec. 17-18 give passengers a chance to select a tree and look for holiday gifts. Reservations are required and ticketing and train time information can be found online.
Caroling is among Christmas’ time-honored traditions, and The Music Center (135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.) continues this custom at its annual Holiday Sing-Along Dec. 16 (weather permitting). Come out to Music Center Plaza and become a member of this public choir. Singers of all abilities and ages are welcome. There will be live accompaniment and lyric sheets will be provided. Just bring your voice and probably a warm coat, too. The event is free but tickets are required. They will be distributed starting at 6 p.m. – one per person in line, first come, first served.
Singing In Style
Down the block from the plaza, Walt Disney Concert Hall (111 S. Grand Ave., L.A.) will host a pair of sing-along opportunities. Melissa Peterman (you know her from hosting the Hollywood Bowl’s Sing-along “Sound of Music”) will lead another Holiday Sing-Along at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 17. For an admission fee of $32-$84, audience members can join in the singing as a choir performs a selection of seasonal songs accompanied by Disney Hall’s magnificent pipe organ and a jazz combo. As Christmas draws nigh, you can increase your seasonal excitement at the “White Christmas” Sing-Along at 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 23. The classic 1954 holiday movie will be shown on a big screen and families can follow the projected lyrics and sing along. It’s worth the $33-$68 ticket because how many chances will you get to harmonize with Bing Crosby on “White Christmas”?
The Season’s True Spirit
Amidst the holiday merriment and family fun, it can be easy to forget that Christmas also is a time for helping those less fortunate. The folks at Big Sunday (6111 Melrose Ave., L.A.) will help you remember at their annual Holiday Party and Sing-Along from 3-5 p.m. Dec. 11. Create holiday decorations, enjoy a meal and sing festive songs (accompanied by a live band) with Big Sunday’s other special guests – low-income seniors, children with challenges and women and kids from domestic violence shelters. Big Sunday also is asking for donations of non-perishable food items, toys and winter coats that they will donate to local nonprofits.
By looking to the past and celebrating in our community, we can make the season more merry and bright for all.
Michael Berick is Calendar Editor of L.A. Parent.