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Old Capitol Christmas.

As the holiday season approaches, reflections of traditions dance through the minds of all. One Mississippi landmark holds true to holiday traditions each year--the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson.

Standing in a stately manner, gracing Le Fleur's Bluff, is the building that once served as Mississippi's Capitol, fondly called the "Old" Capitol. Designed by architect William Nichols, the Greek Revival structure served as Mississippi's State House from 1839 until 1903 when the "New" Capitol was completed. The historic Old Capitol functioned as a state office building until 1959; it was then designated as the State's Historical Museum. Annually, thousands of school children and tourists visit the Museum to discover Mississippi's rich history. However, especially during the holiday season the Old Capitol seems to come alive with the sights and sounds of Christmas.

Wonderment is in the eyes of everyone who enters the limestone and brick structure beneath the grand portico supported by six Corinthian columns and appointed with garland and bows for the holidays. The rotunda, rising 94 feet from the polished limestone floor to the top of the dome, is the site of one of the grandest of Christmas trees in Jackson. A giant Mississippi cedar rises more than 20 feet and bears period ornaments typical of the 1870s to 1880s. At the base of the tree are toys from the Museum's collection generating reflections of simple childhood pleasures from Mississippi's past.

The rotunda is only one station for observation at the Old Capitol Museum during the month of December. Moving through the Capitol, seasonal music plays in the background, as the tradition of Christmas at the Old Capitol pervades from every direction.

Directly off the rotunda, in the Hall of Flags, is an exhibit of three Christmas trees with reproduction and original decorations from the Antebellum, Victorian, and Depression eras. The Antebellum tree displays unique ornaments handmade from materials found around the house, including yam dolls, cornshuck dolls, miniature baskets, cut paper ornaments, and quilled snowflakes. Decorating the Victorian tree are handmade decorations of ribbons, lace bows, strings of beads, red satin roses, decorated cookies, paper fans, gumdrop rings, cornucopias filled with nuts, candy filled lace bags, and an angel topper. Some commercially made Christmas ornaments were available during this time. The Depression era ushered in the excitement of electric lights on Christmas trees, although only a few households may have actually had them. Handmade and commercial ornaments available for decorating in the early nineteenth century for the holidays included paper chains, glass balls, popcorn and cranberries, icicles, and cotton ba tting simulating snow. Beneath each tree are small toys from the Museum's collections complementing each era, all of which have been owned and cherished by Mississippi children of previous generations.

The most popular exhibit at the Old Capitol Museum during the holiday season is found in the Senate Chamber. The Old Capitol trains running through the town of Possum Ridge bring excitement to many viewers, young and old. Clay Williams, director of exhibits, is amazed at the "overpowering effects of the trains." Carefully placed atop new, lower tables for this year, the more than 25 intricate buildings including a school, church, theatre, jail, barn, fire department, cafe, bank, coffee shop, grocery, cleaners, icehouse, barber shop, and depot, reflect a Mississippi rural town of the 1940s. Similarly, the O-gauge electric trains depict the rail use during the railroad's heyday. Two special passenger trains amongst the set are the Panama Limited and the Rebel, both of which ran through Mississippi. The Old Capitol trains are engineered daily and are always surrounded by children and adults of all ages.

A special holiday tradition at the Old Capitol Museum is the short film Small One. The animated children's Christmas story warms the heart of each person who views it. This film is shown daily at 3:00 p.m. for the public as well as on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. in the House of Representatives Chamber. Small One is a cherished component of every holiday visit to the Old Capitol Museum.

The Old Capitol Museum holds yet one more special offering during the holiday season. Unique holiday gift items can be found at the Museum's shop on the first floor. From the everyday to the exquisite, prints to paperbacks, baskets to beads, and much, much, more, all in one place, the gift shop continues the holiday spirit of the Capitol. The Museum Shop offers a myriad of Mississippi items for all ages, and all occasions. The shop is open during Museum hours Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday afternoon during November and December. Of special interest to holiday shoppers is the Old Capitol Museum Shop Holiday Open House on Sunday, November 12, 2000, from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Old Capitol Museum begins its holiday season on Monday, December 4, 2000, and will continue through Friday, December 22, 2000. Christmas at the Old Capitol is annually one of the top 20 events as voted by the Southeastern Tourism Society.

"It is for absolutely every age," says Lucy Allen, director of education and programs at the Museum. "Three and four generations enjoy Christmas here and would not miss this annual tradition at the Old Capitol."
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Article Details
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Author:DAVIS, ALISON HOPTON
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U6MS
Date:Nov 1, 2000
Words:875
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