It’s easy to get into the holiday spirit at Genesee Country Village & Museum, the largest living history museum in New York State with the largest collection of historic buildings in the Northeast. The Museum, with its John L. Wehle Gallery, working brewery, vintage base ball park, and Nature Center, is located in Mumford, NY, 20 miles southwest of Rochester and 45 miles east of Buffalo. Although 2020 has been a unique season for GCV&M, and many traditional events have been curtailed or moved online, the holidays are a time for nostalgia and looking back, and the holidays in the Historic Village offer plenty of memories to savor and activities to look forward to in the future. GCV&M typically kicks off the holiday season on Thanksgiving weekend and the merrymaking continues through December, with frequent appearances by the star of the season, St. Nicholas. Whether visiting with children at a luscious pancake breakfast, making special appearances on the streets of the Historic Village, or as a VIP at holiday theatrical events, St. Nick steps back in time to the 19th Century in dress and tradition.
During the holiday season, the Historic Village is bustling with activity as costumed interpreters make ready for the upcoming festivities, as well as the long winter that will follow in this part of Western New York. Museum visitors are able to see demonstrations of candle-making, spinning, meat preservation, and other activities vital to 19th-century New Yorkers as they faced the winter season. Tastings of holiday favorites like roasted chestnuts and mincemeat can often be found in the busy historic kitchens, warmed by crackling hearth fires and full of jolly conversation.
What makes a holiday visit to the Museum special is the way it transports guests back in time to experience the wonders of the season as it was celebrated by residents of the Genesee Valley in the 1800s. Guests are welcomed into village homes to see a variety of different holiday customs, including traditional Norwegian julkaker cookie baking by a mother and daughter, a riotous Christmas dance, and a serene Hanukkah celebration. As twilight falls, lanterns illuminate the paths of the village, and the iconic gazebo in the Great Meadow is lit with twinkling lights and its traditional lighted tree.
The welcoming Historic Village opens its houses, trades shops, and community buildings for visitors to wander the snow-covered village lanes and engage with a variety of holiday preparations in progress, including a tree-lighting, food tastings, and even a visit with the elusive St. Nick. Houses and buildings are festively decorated with greens and other natural items foraged from the Museum’s extensive historic gardens, along with ribbons that range from smart tartans to humble muslin.
Genesee Country Village & Museum’s Flint Hill Store is one of the most charming country shops in the areas, and during the holiday season it becomes a wonderland of winter cheer and festivity. Trees fill the shop, each decorated with modern and traditional ornaments, and shelves are filled with gift ideas, including traditionally-made goods like one-of-a-kind pottery, tinware, and brooms, all created by the artisans in the Historic Village. Online, the store offers a holiday cookie sale, with a variety of Village-made traditional cookies like macaroons and springerles available for purchase, with pick-up at the store. Museum admission is not required to shop at Flint Hill, and the shop is open during all Museum events through the holiday season.
Flint Hill Store hours and details for all 2020 events are available at www.gcv.org or on the Museum’s Facebook page @GCVMuseum.
Featured Photo: Patty Singer/Dave Valvo: St Nick is often found during the holiday season, visiting Village homes and traveling the lanes during his busy season. He often can be found visiting the Historic Village’s families to drop off holiday gifts.
Photo Credit: Margy Meath. A close-up view of the hand-strung greenery swags that line the Brooks Grove fence.
Photo credit: Mary Courtney. Historic Interpreter in the Cooper Shop shows visitors how she’ carves spiles that will be used to tap maple trees in the spring during the maple sugar harvest. Along with newly crafted buckets for sap, these tools are made during the long winter months in preparation for spring.
Photo Credit: Staff
The Flint Hill Store gets a holiday makeover, becoming an enchanted forest of richly decorated trees, where shoppers can pluck their favorites right from the branches to take home. In addition to books, toys, and artisan wares from around the region, the Flint Hill Store carries goods made by Museum crafts people, including brooms, iron and tin wares, and the beautiful handmade pottery thrown and fired on site.
Photo Credit: Carole Volpe
Genesee Country Village & Museum includes a working farm, and the work continues all year long. Farmers spend the summers harvesting hay to get the animals through the long winters, and winter chores might include breaking ice off of water troughs and putting out fresh, warm bedding for the sheep, fowl, oxen, and more who live at the Museum year-round.
The Historic Village becomes a snow globe of beauty in the winter, and the costumed interpreters in their bright winter garb add the perfect pop of jolly color. These revelers were caught on their way to a festive holiday meal on a bright December day. In the evening, lantern light gives the Village a magical feel, particularly when there’s a new dusting of snow on the ground.