Poplar Forest Continues their Holiday Tradition with Candlelight Tours

The Holiday Candlelight Tours are back this year for its fifth straight year at Poplar Forest creating the picture of a traditional Christmas that would have been seen during President Thomas Jefferson’s era.

Christmas took on a different meaning during the early 1800s and the goal of the Candlelight Tours at Poplar Forest are to educate the public on the traditions that would have been displayed around Christmastime. The tours let you see firsthand what life would have been like for for Jefferson during the holidays.

“Christmas had a different style. It was more adult oriented so people didn’t decorate. Instead they went to church and ate elaborate meals,” Gwen Solyom, tour guide at Poplar Forest for 26 years, said.

The Candlelight Tour consists of a tour of Jefferson’s retreat along with activities for the children. Not only will you get to tour the house, but there are also cooking demonstrations as well as era-appropriate music. The tours will take place throughout December according to the Media Advisory report. The dates of the tours include:

  • December 1 or 15 at 5:30
  • December 2 & 3, 9 & 10, 16 & 17 at 5:30 and 6:30
  • Admission is $20

Decorations were very minimal to say the least and consisted of all natural greens. The goal of Poplar Forest’s Christmas decorations were to make sure everything stuck to traditional and simple decoration. Kathy Kramer, the education coordinator, is in charge of the plant arrangements and does a great job of keeping to the traditional style of the era.

“People really wouldn’t have decorated that much in Jefferson’s age. Christmas trees didn’t come into fashion until Queen Victoria was reigning in England in the late 1800s. People would have gone out onto their property and found greens and brought them into the house to add color,” Massie said.

Christmas was not limited to one day during Jefferson's day. Poplar Forest did its best to demonstrate that by having the tours continue all throughout the month of December.

“In Jefferson’s day, the twelve days of Christmas were celebrated much more. They did some gift giving, but it was more of a time for families to get together,” Massie said.

The above story was written by a student journalist at Liberty University for a class project.

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