German Traditions at MWPAI with Victorian Yuletide


UTICA — Celebrate the holiday season with the annual Victorian Yuletide exhibition at Fountain Elms, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. This year commemorates the tradition of Christmas trees, an iconic seasonal symbol that originated in Germany.

Victorian Yuletide begins Nov. 27 and runs through Jan. 3, 2021.

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Legend says that German religious reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) was walking home one winter’s night and was awestruck by the twinkling stars he saw through the branches of evergreen trees.

To recapture the scene for his family, Luther took a tree into his home and adorned its branches with lighted candles.

The popularity of the Christmas tree ensured that Germans immigrating to the United States brought the tradition with them. The practice grew even more popular when, in 1846, “The Illustrated London News” portrayed Queen Victoria (r. 1837-1901) and her German-born husband, Albert, Prince Consort (1819-61), with their children around a tabletop tree; a similar image was published in America a few years later. In both Britain and the United States, it was fashionable to copy the royals.

During Victorian Yuletide, Fountain Elms is resplendent with festive décor. The library boasts a royally inspired tabletop tree; the dining room features the unusual feather tree, an early kind of imitation evergreen; the bedroom has a wooden, tiered Bethlehem tree, the shelves of which display small gifts; and in the parlor, one will find a tall tree—much like Americans use today—decorated with homemade ornaments.

And what would be a celebration without all the other holiday touches: a table will display the handiwork of mother and children who are busy making ornaments and gifts; the dining room centerpiece recreates a snowy Currier & Ives scene; and be sure to stop under the mistletoe.

MWPAI is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. For more information call call 315-797-0000.

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