As Winterthur Museum’s annual Yuletide Tour returns, it will continue its self-guided tours, adding fire pits and jazz on Wednesday nights and a Jackie O tree to honor an upcoming exhibit about the former first lady.
The holiday tours, which begin Nov. 20 and last through Jan. 2, showcase rooms in Henry Francis du Pont’s former home decorated for the season, with special displays throughout the house inspired by the du Pont family’s celebrations.
Among the decorated trees on view will be the estate’s popular 14-foot dried-flower tree, an evergreen decorated with bunches of dried hydrangeas, yarrow, statice, globe amaranth, and other flowers. It will stand in the conservatory entrance to the house. New to the tour this year, a second breathtaking tree designed with dried flowers.
As a nod to the 2022 exhibition “Jacqueline Kennedy and H. F. du Pont: From Winterthur to the White House,” a decorated tree recreates the one displayed at the White House in 1962, created by the first lady.
With the theme of a “Children’s Christmas,” it featured candles, birds, snowflakes, angels, tiny twig stars, small wrapped gifts, reindeer, candy canes, stuffed animals, and a model PT-109 boat commemorating the president’s heroic deed during World War II.
That exhibit is based on a paper written by a former Winterthur conservation student and opens May 7.
Special holiday programs throughout the season include Wonderful Wednesdays in December and evening events featuring live jazz performances, caroling and workshops.
In addition to the Wednesday evening festivities, visitors can enjoy live one-man performances of “A Christmas Carol” by Gerald Charles Dickens, the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens; wine and chocolate tastings; and family events with Santa and Mrs. Claus. For more, go here.
The estate will not decorate the grounds as it did last year or offer the light show on the side of the house, but the self-guided tours will allow people to linger as long as they want. Guides will be strategically placed to answer questions and offer comment.
The number of visitors will be limited because of COVID-19, so reservations are recommended, and visitors will be asked to wear masks inside the house and on shuttles.
H.F. du Pont, renowned for being one of the first to embrace American antiques and design, turned his country estate into a museum of decorative arts in the 1950s. The family spent holidays on the estates and many displays are based on their traditions.
Rooms on the tour will recreate the parlor where the du Pont family and their guests opened gifts on Christmas and the dining room where they enjoyed Christmas dinner.
Two vignettes depict New Year’s calling, a custom still practiced by the du Ponts. Every New Year’s Day, the women of the extended family gathered in hostess groups at various houses while the men traveled in groups to call upon them, bearing small gifts. One display represents a calling from the 1890s while a second recreates one from the 1940s.
The trees on the Yuletide Tour also complement the exhibition “Outside In: Nature-inspired Design at Winterthur,” on view through Jan. 2. The visually eclectic and immersive exhibition explores the connection to nature, which influenced H. F. du Pont’s design aesthetic.
During Yuletide, Winterthur is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with house tours available by reservation from 10 a.m. to last tour starting at 3:15 p.m.. The estate will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yuletide admission is $25 for adults; $23 for students and seniors; $6 for ages 2–11.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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