Celebrate the holiday season with the annual Victorian Yuletide exhibition at Fountain Elms, on view from November 27, 2020, through January 3, 2021. Yuletide 2020 commemorates the tradition of Christmas trees, an iconic seasonal symbol that originated in Germany. Legend tells us that Martin Luther (1483-1546), a German religious reformer, was walking home one winter’s night and was awestruck by the twinkling stars he saw through the branches of evergreen trees. To recapture the scene for his family, Luther took such a tree into his home and wired its branches with lighted candles. The popularity of the Christmas tree ensured that Germans immigrating to the United States brought the tradition with them. The practice grew even more popular when, in 1846, the Illustrated London News portrayed Queen Victoria (r. 1837-1901) and her German-born husband, Albert, Prince Consort (1819-61), with their children around a table-top tree; a similar image was published in America a few years later. In both Britain and here, it was fashionable to copy the royals.
During Yuletide, Fountain Elms is resplendent with festive décor. The Library boasts a royally inspired table-top tree; the Dining Room features the unusual feather tree, an early kind of imitation evergreen; the bedroom has a wooden, tiered Bethlehem tree, the shelves of which display small gifts; and in the Parlor, one will find a tall tree—much like Americans use today—decorated with homemade ornaments. Be sure to see all of the other holiday touches: a table will display the labors of mother and children who are busy making ornaments and gifts; the dining room centerpiece recreates a snowy Currier & Ives scene; and be sure to see the mistletoe!
Victorian Yuletide is a mainstay in an otherwise unpredictable and unprecedented year. Warm greetings of the season from Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute to you.
The Dining Room