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Christmas 1888 in 1988.

Many Westerners celebrate the holidays in Victorian style. Here's how and where you can join in

The Victorians virtually invented Christmas as we know it today. The Christmas card, evergreen decorations for the house, our concept of Santa Claus, and even the Christmas tree itself were popularized in England during the 19th century, and copied in this country. In the West, that era (1837 to 1901) also left a legacy of historic houses, some of which celebrate the holidays in authentic period fashion. We found plenty of celebrations to enjoy in major urban areas, so you won't have to make a major trek during the holidays; ones around the West are shown on these pages. We tried to select the best authentic events-forgive us if we don't list your favorite-at historic houses, farms, and other sites; on page 65, we list ones for your Sunset zone.You might indulge in an elegant tea, buy handmade ornaments, or sing carols in a horse-drawn wagon.

Yuletide, Victorian-style: then and now Thanks to prosperity in the new middle class, many Americans in the late 19th century could enjoy a properly lavish Christmas. Turkey and goose dinners began to appear on holiday tables. Massproduced tin and glass ornaments dangled from trees. And mechanized lithography, invented in the 19th century, allowed mass production of Christmas cards, too, to herald the season.

In the West, the Victorian era saw great changes: wagon train immigrants turned the villages of Salt Lake City and Denver into cities. The California and Alaska gold rushes poured wealth and people into San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, while the oil and railroad booms transformed Los Angeles. And at Christmas, the events, people, and conditions in the West meant we added our own spin to traditional celebrations.

In Oregon, new arrivals sometimes substituted bear meat for the more usual fowl on the holiday table. In Salt Lake City, the fancy-dress Christmas ball gave way to homespun-frocked women dancing the Virginia reel. And in Southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico, Victorian and Mexican influences blended: pinatas decorated the porches of Queen Anne houses, and luminarias lit the walkways.

Today's events try to re-create the charm and elegance of a Victorian yuletide. Notice the decorations, for example: Victorians practically drowned the house in evergreens, inside and out-wrapping them around staircases, draping them from fixtures, stringing them around hearths and picture frames.

Centerpieces were elaborate, with topiary Santas and reindeer. And the tree was small-often set atop a table-but loaded with glass and tin ornaments, and trimmed with ribbon bows.

Food and music still play a big role in today's celebrations, as they did a century ago. Carolers abound, often in Dickensian costumes. At some holiday events, you can buy crafts or learn how to make them, or just get decorating ideas to try in your own home. Most locations are closed Christmas Day; call ahead.

In the San Francisco Bay Area

Unless noted, area code is 415.

Fremont, Ardenwood Regional Preserve, 34600 Ardenwood Boulevard; 796-0199. A turreted Queen Anne sits on this 205-acre farm. Join a hunt for a yule log, sing carols on a horse-drawn wagon, learn to make lace or crochet ornaments, or sit on the lap of a Santa dressed 1880s-style. Open 10 to 5:30 December 2, 3, and 4; $5, $3 seniors, $2.50 ages 6 through 18. Call to reserve space at high tea (twice daily, $10).

Hayward. McConaghy House, 18701

Hesperian Boulevard; 581-0223. This 1886 farmhouse is decorated for a Victorian Christmas, with games, antique toys, and gift boutique. Open all month, from I to 4 Thursdays through Sundays; $3, $2 seniors, 50 cents ages 6 through 12.

Livermore. Ravenswood Historic Site, 2647 Arroyo Road; 447-7300. This 1885 country estate has a Victorian Christmas Faire with 15 craft and food booths. Open 7 to 9:30 Pm. December 9 ($5), 11 to 8 December 10, and 11 to 4 December It (free).

Martinez. John Muir National Historic Site, 4202 Alhambra Avenue; 228-8860.

This 17-room 1882 mansion serves

Victorian teas with caroling, music, and handmade decorations. Three teas daily on December 17 and 18 ($7, $6 seniors, $5 ages 6 through 17); call for information. Oakland. Dunsmuir House and Gardens, 2960 Peralta Oaks Court; 562-0328. Built in 1899, this 37-room mansion holds its 18th old-fashioned Christmas (go early to avoid crowds). Ride in a carriage ($2), buy handmade gifts and decorations, eat in the carriage-house cafe. November 26 through December 18, hours are 10 to 7 Fridays and Saturdays, 10 to 6 Sundays; $9, $8 seniors, $3 ages 6 through 16.

San Francisco. Haas-Lilienthal House, 2007 Franklin Street; 441-3000. From 1 to 5 on December 4, this gabled 1886 house has caroling, games, and an auction ($7). To tour the house, visit noon to 4 Wednesdays and Sundays.

Whittier Mansion, 2090 Jackson Street; 567-1848. This handsome 1896 red-stone house offers music and refreshments from 3 to 5 December 11 ($10). Call for reservations.

San Jose. San Jose Historical Museum, 635 Phelan Avenue; (408) 287-2290. This 25-acre section of Kelley Park preserves 20 buildings from old San Jose. Visit the decorated bank building, stables, post office, and homes; listen to carolers. Vignettes present Victorian family life. Open 10 to 4 December 10 and 11; $3, $2.50 seniors, $2 ages 6 through 17, $2 parking.

In the Central Valley Unless noted, area code is 209. Fresno. The Kearney Mansion, 7160 W. Kearney Boulevard; 441-0862. M. Theo. Kearney's grandiose dream celebrates its 24th Victorian Christmas this year, decked with a 1 2-foot fir tree, wreaths, and exhibits based on the area's Armenian heritage. Musicians and cboirs-some in costume-perform Saturdays and Sundays. Open from I to 4 December 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, and 18; $3, $1.50 ages 13 through 17, $1 ages 12 and under.

The Meux Home, Tulare and R streets; 233-8007. Built for Fresno doctor Thomas Meux, the house has 12 charming rooms decorated for a Victorian country holiday. Docents in full Victorian regalia lead house tours; carolers serenade you. Baked goods are for sale. Open from 3 to 6 December 10 and 17, 1 to 4 December 11 and 18; $3, $1 ages 6 through 17.

Sacramento. Governor's Mansion, H and 16th streets; (916) 323-3047. This 1877 Italianate house celebrates from 10 to 4 December 3 and 4. Lavishly decorated (one room holds 100 Santas), the place rings with caroling. There are homemade cookies and a 12-foot tree, too. Admission is $2, $1 ages 6 through 17.

In the Rockies

Colorado's area code is 303, Utah's 801.

Denver. Grant-Humphreys Mansion, 770 Pennsylvania Street; 894-2505. See trees decorated with antique ornaments in this 1902 Beaux-Arts house. From 5 to 8 November 25, enjoy tours, music, and food ($12). On November 26, children can make Victorian ornaments, listen to storytellers, and visit St. Nick from 10 to 3 ($3 adults, $2 ages 16 and under). On November 27, join a sing-along from noon to 3. Tours offered 10 to 2 Tuesdays through Fridays.

Molly Brown House, 1340 Pennsylvania Street; 832-4092. Festive decorations at this 1889 lava-stone mansion include three trees hung with Victorian ornaments. Tours led by period-costumed guides run from 10 to 3 Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 3 Sundays. Victorian decorations are for sale.

Georgetown. This 1800s mining town, about an hour's drive west of Denver off I-70, celebrates its 27th annual Victorian-style Christmas Mart December 3, 4, 10, and 11. From 10 to dusk, visit food and crafts booths, see Victorian houses, and listen to caroling and Scottish bagpiping.

Salt Lake City. Pioneer Trails State Park, 2601 Sunnyside Avenue; 533-5882. From 7 to 9 December 2 and 3, take a candlelight tour of buildings from historic Old Deseret area. Enjoy wagon rides and a Victorian tea (write to reserve; zip is 84108). From noon to 5 December 10 and 11, join an 1850s Christmas with costumed docents and carolers; make wooden toys; watch dancing and gingerbread-making. Entry fee is $1, 50 cents ages 6 through 15.

Wheeler Historic Farm, 6351 S. 900 East Street; 264-2212. Tour this 1890s farm, adorned for the holidays. Ride a wagon or sleigh ($1), buy ornaments, or enjoy vignettes in the parlor. It's open November 25 through December 17 ($3.75, $2.50 ages 3 through 11) and December 26 through 31 ($1.50). Hours are 5:30 to 9 weekdays, 2 to 9 Saturdays.

LDS Museum of Church History and Art, 45 N. West Temple Street, 240-2299. At 7 and 8 PM. December 5 and 12, costumed docents perform yuletide songs, dances, and pioneer profiles from 1855 diaries. Free.
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Title Annotation:holidays in Victorian style
Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 1988
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