Christmas at the homestead
Photo by Lauren Baron, Brant News
Bell Homestead curator Brian Wood.
In the dark of night with lamplights lit, evergreens decorating the staircase and bread baking in the oven, the Bell Homestead will return to its 19th century roots.
“This is really a unique opportunity to see the house at night, as I like to say, with almost the neighbourhood around us disappearing in the darkness," said Bell Homestead curator Brian Wood. "You really get the sense that the Bells are still living here. The house really comes to life.”
The public is invited to witness the homestead after hours during the Melville House by Moonlight Christmas Celebration from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8.
The event offers a chance for visitors to see the house functioning the way it was when Alexander Graham Bell and his family prepared for the Christmas holidays.
The staircase was lined with garlands made of evergreen and white pine branches from the property. The Christmas tree was small and lined with handmade ornaments and family photographs.
“Christmas dinner was the big part of the celebration, so Mrs. Bell and her daughter-in-law would have spent days preparing for the Christmas feast,” Wood said. “The dining room was done up, it was a significant room as far as celebrating, so the dining room is set the way Mrs. Bell would have set the table.”
During the event, Celtic harpist Loril Shannik will perform songs of the season while Grade 7 and Grade 8 enrichment students from Banbury Heights and Mount Pleasant schools take guests on a guided tour of the homestead.
“They will talk about the family, their Christmas customs and talk about the different artifacts and about the rooms they will be in,” Wood said.
Christmas was an important time for the Bell family, as it was one of the rare occasions that Alexander was at home in Brantford.
“His parents were super excited always when he came home, given that he was their only surviving son and he was away in Boston for eight months of the year,” Wood said. “To have him home was a significant thing for them.”
What is possibly most surprising about stepping back into a 19th century Christmas is its similarity to a modern-day Christmas celebration, Wood said.
“For us, it’s a chance to show the visitors how there are connections between what we do today and what people were doing 100 years ago,” he said. “We are still doing a huge Christmas dinner and it really is a time for families to gather.
"It really brings Christmas back to its traditional roots and reminds people of what the whole holiday is about.”
A traditional Christmas dinner featuring turkey, stuffing, fresh vegetables and desserts will be served both nights in the Homestead Café. Reservations are required. Dinner costs $22.95 per person. Call 59-756-6220 or visit www.bellhomestead.ca for more information.