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Jacksonville sees return of Victorian Christmas events

The annual Victorian Christmas brings a monthlong Christmas celebration to downtown Jacksonville. The tree lighting Saturday, Nov. 27 at New City Hall starts the season. - MT file photo

The traditional Victorian Christmas celebration returns to Jacksonville after a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between Saturday, Nov. 27 and Dec. 19, celebrants will be able to enjoy such events as the annual parade, a tree lighting, tours inside the Beekman House, photos with Father Christmas and more.

“I think people are excited at being able to gather. People are ready to get together to celebrate the holidays and enjoy Victorian Christmas in Jacksonville,” said Amanda Moreira, director of the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center. State guidelines on masking at events will be followed, and signs on requirements will be posted.

More than 30 entries have been received for the parade, which takes place on California Street starting at 10 a.m. Dec. 4. The parade usually draws about 20 entries. There will be some new entries along with traditional favorites such as the one-man-band, marching bands, dance teams from local schools and community groups, said Moreira. Santa Claus usually makes an appearance on an old fire engine.

Tree lighting will take place at New City Hall, 206 N. Fifth St. at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27. Mayor Donna Bowen will welcome visitors, and there will be caroling. The event will be livestreamed on the chamber’s Instagram and Facebook sites for those who cannot attend.

An “After the Tree Lighting Party” will be held at the Jacksonville Community Center, 160 E. Main St., from 5:45 p.m. to 8 p.m., in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Masks will be required. Food and hot drinks will be available. There will be crafts and games for kids, and local youth group musicians will perform. There is no admission charge.

Visitors can take pictures of themselves with Father Christmas on weekends from Nov. 27 through Dec. 19. Father Christmas will be hanging out from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in front of the Beekman Bank at Third and California streets. Those who are aged 5 and up are requested to wear masks and practice social distancing while waiting in line. There is no charge for the picture taking.

Historic Jacksonville, Inc. will reopen the Beekman House for the first time since February 2020 when it gives guided tours with presentations on how the Beekman family, one of Jacksonville’s wealthiest, decorated the home for the holidays in the 1800s.

Costumed docents will share origins of Christmas traditions and observances along with stories about the Beekman family and the town’s holiday activities. A leader will bring groups of six into five different rooms in the house, where docents will explain Christmas traditions during the one-hour tours. Participants are asked to wear masks.

Visitors can look for the good luck German pickle ornament on the Christmas tree and learn how Clement Moore and Charles Dickens reinvented the holiday with their literature in England, said Carolyn Kingsnorth, organization president.

“Cornelius Beekman’s family was of Dutch ancestry, his wife’s family was German,” said Kingsnorth. “Their cultures contributed Santa Claus and Christmas trees to our current traditions. Other pioneers brought the holiday customs of Scandinavia, England, France and Eastern Europe, all of which have melded into how we celebrate Christmas today.

At the tour end, visitors will receive one of Mrs. Beekman’s sugar cookies, wrapped in commercial-grade packaging.

Tours start every 15 minutes from noon to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday from Nov. 27 through Dec. 19. There is a $5 charge. Tour reservations can be made at www.historicjacksonville.org/victorian -christmas. Questions can be sent to info@historicjacksonville.org.

Besides tours, the Beekman House will host Mrs. Beekman’s Christmas Bazaar during tour hours. A variety of items are for sale, and there is no admission charge. Proceeds from the tour and bazaar are used to support the nonprofit organization’s work to maintain historic buildings in town and to offer interpretive programs.

A traditional Holiday Treasures and Angels Art Show will take place at Art Presence, 206 N. Fifth St., beginning Saturday, Dec. 4 and running through the end of month. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.

Jacksonville Garden Club will hold an outdoor sale of wreaths assembled by members, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3. The event will be in the alcove of the Post Office.

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and Business Association coordinates the celebration. The group’s board of directors sought City Council input prior to deciding to proceed with events. Councilors were unanimous in their support to bring it back, said Moreira. “They were all happy to have it again,” she said.

Information and updates can be found at jacksonvillechristmas.org or on the organization’s Facebook and Instagram sites.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.