Have yourself a merry little Victorian Christmas

Dalnavert Museum hosts bevy of holiday programming

Photo provided by the Dalnavert Museum

To say the Victorians invented how Christmas is celebrated as we know it is not hyperbole.

The Christmas tree was popularized as a tradition when Victorian periodicals published images of Queen Victoria and her family gathered around their decorated tree, carolling became an institution of Victorian Christmas and Charles Dickens wrote arguably the most famous Christmas tale of all time.

Winnipeg is lucky enough to be home to a Victorian-era house, the Dalnavert, and once again the house-turned-museum is hosting Victorian Christmas festivities all month long.

Charlene Van Buekenhout, director of programming and marketing at the Dalnavert Museum, said the holiday programming runs “right up until Christmas.”

The Victorian Christmas tours are perennial favourites, running Thursdays through Saturdays.

“The tours talk about what would have been usual at that time of year for all the people living in the house, not just the family, and what they would have done for Christmas, so the baking and dinner making as well as gift-giving and decorating,” Van Buekenhout said.

Families will “have a chance to take a picture by the Christmas tree if you want to have a family photo or anything like that, and you’ll hear all about the festivities and other things that Victorians would have done around Christmastime.”

The house will also be filled with traditional Victorian music by the Winnipeg Early Music Society.

“You also get some refreshments in the visitors’ centre, so after your tour you come out and you can have hot chocolate and apple cider,” Van Buekenhout said.

The tours are $20 per person ($10 for those 12 and under) for a full tour of the house and refreshments, with proceeds going to museum maintenance.

If refreshments are more your idea of holiday fun, the Dalnavert will play host to Christmas teas sponsored by the Winnipeg Foundation Centennial Institute as part of the Alloway Fund. Van Buekenhout explained the fund is named after Elizabeth Alloway, a neighbour of the Dalnavert’s original occupants who was instrumental in starting the Winnipeg Foundation a century ago.

“Of course, you’ll have tea and there’ll be some holiday baking, and we have a little Christmas craft that you can do at your table at your leisure. We also take you into the house to do a brief Christmas tour and you get to hear music,” Van Buekenhout said.

The tea will feature local talent performing festive and traditional tunes.

One of the most traditional events comes in the form of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. The novella comes from a long tradition of Victorian Christmastime ghost stories. Winnipeg’s Ron Robinson will be reading the tale in the visitor’s centre from Dec. 22 until Christmas Eve.

After the readings, refreshments will be provided while the Winnipeg Early Music Society performs.

The Elizabeth Alloway lecture series also continues into December and features a holiday-themed lecture by another Winnipeg talent, Mel Braun of Camerata Nova.

“He’ll be talking about choral singing and carols […] a seasonal topic for that series,” Van Buekenhout said.

Braun’s lecture is a free, online afternoon event on Dec. 19. Registration on the Dalnavert’s website is required to receive a Zoom link to the lecture. A mask and proof of immunization are required inside the museum, but if you don’t wish to leave the comfort of home in a Winnipeg winter, Braun’s lecture is the event for you.

With such an abundance of holiday programming, there is an event to everyone’s preference at the Dalnavert Museum. With another dark winter ahead, finding yourself surrounded by Victorian Christmases of yore may just lift your spirits.

For more information about events and the museum itself, visit friendsofdalnavert.ca.