A Christmas Lantern Tour.

For our children’s birthdays this year, we decided to let them pick one super-fun family activity to do instead of hosting a big birthday party.

Weslea’s birthday was way back in October and she chose for us to visit Hale Farm & Village after Will went there for his 4th grade field trip and came home raving about how much he loved it. Hale Farm & Village is a tourist attraction, located about an hour away from our home, that is set-up as a Civil War era town where visitors are taken on tours to different areas (the church, school, blacksmith, glass blowing, wealthy community homes, homes on the outskirts of the town, etc.) to try to understand what life was really like during that time period.

Unfortunately for all of us, soccer season was in full swing and life was extremely busy and we were never able to get there before they closed for the regular season. We did find out that they host Christmas Lantern Tours so we just finally finished celebrating Weslea’s birthday (two months after the fact!) on Saturday during our scheduled tour.

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As part of the tour, our group was asked to portray members of the Wheatfield Soldiers’ Aid Society who were soliciting donations for the “Great Donation Procession,” to benefit the wives and children of soldiers who were away serving with the Union army in 1863.

We then proceeded through the 90 minute tour that included six different scenes in different homes and buildings throughout Hale Farm & Village. From the first scene where “the Conroys were preparing to celebrate Christmas in keeping with Irish Catholic traditions, while packing boxes for Uncle Jack who is a soldier in the Union army”….to the last scene where “the Martin family was preparing to spend a joyous Christmas, which included a shadow puppet theatre version of A Visit from St. Nicolas“…most of our kids were completely and utterly mesmerized by the whole event.

Except for Mr. Weston. It took me all of 10 seconds to realize that I had made a HUGE mistake by bringing Weston with us. By the time we walked through the beautiful (yet cold) night to the first stop on our tour, he had already informed me that “This is not fun at all mommy. You told me that this was going to be fun and this is NOT fun.” And I continued to hear about how “not fun” the whole thing was for the entire tour. The child is nothing if not persistant in letting us know how he is feeling at every exact moment.

The rest of the kids were completely fascinated though. Even Wyatt, our six-year-old, was completely enthralled by the vision of life the actors portrayed of a typical American Christmas in 1863. I think it was a wonderful way for them to learn a bit about the history of our nation in a unique, hands-on fashion.

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And the best part for Weslea was having both sets of grandparents attend the event with us.

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I think she made a very good choice for her family birthday activity. It was a beautiful, meaningful way to spend time together as a family.