I was lucky to go to the Glessner House’s Candlelight Christmas Tour on Saturday. Located on the famed Prairie Avenue, where Chicago’s elite lived 100 years ago or so, the Glessner House is a museum housed in a 18th century home that looks like a fortress. Mr. Glessner made his fortune as an executive for International Harvester.
This holiday season, the museum is decked out for Christmas. They have charming Christmas trees, vintage cards and books as well as holly, garlands and ribbons.
For the evening tour, there were docents in each room who explained about the home’s history and how the Victorians celebrated Christmas. A few nuggets I picked up are:
- Victorians used to put a small bough of holly over ancestors’ portraits to remember them.
- Holiday wrapping paper wasn’t invented and used till 1910. Before that people wrapped gifts with wallpaper.
- As you may know, people lit their Christmas trees with candles. What I learned was that the Glessners (and probably other families) only lit their Christmas tree candles for 10 minutes. According to Mrs. Glessner’s diary, the family gathered at 10 am to see the tree lit. They’d have a bucket of sand and water on hand in case of fire and they only had the candles lit for 10 minutes because of the fire danger.
The tour was informative and so well organized. The docents were approachable and knowledgeable. At the end of the tour, which cost $15, we were offered hot apple cider, water and cookies from Trader Joe’s in the coach house.
The house will be decorated till December 31st and it’s free on Wednesdays.
The Chicago Tribune’s Rick Kogan wrote about this gem, Glessner House.