When we think of “glorious” we might conjure images of amazing sights we’ve seen in our lives. We might use accolades to describe them as “magnificent,” “delightful,” “wonderful,” and even “illustrious.”  But when we say, “Glorious Christmas,” we know we mean Christmas at the Robbins Hunter Museum.

This memorable season at the museum officially opens on Saturday, Nov. 12 for the annual Member Preview and then to the general public through the end of the year. Extended museum hours for the first time will find the house open longer, closing only December 24, 25 and 31.

 Special evening events for the first time this year, Nights Before Christmas, are scheduled for Dec. 8, 15, 22, and 29 where special tours and refreshments offer the personal touch. Cost is $5 and the first Night Before Christmas is already sold out.

Indeed, Christmas at RHM has become an art form, sketched over time through decorated trees, mantles, lights, and the stories told of past times and customs by holiday aficionados who volunteer time, talent, and material.  In the life of the museum at Christmas time, few are more devoted to the art than Jean Jankowski.

Jean Jankowski puts the finishing touches on the WWI tree.

Jean Jankowski puts the finishing touches on the WWI tree.

Jean brought her fervent love for theme-based Christmas trees to the 1800s house museum some five years ago and she and others have nurtured it from there.

This year with the help of a cadre of volunteers, seven theme trees, each sitting in one of the museum’s lovely rooms, will tell their stories . A suffragette tree, for example, will stand tall in the Ladies Parlor and speak through photos and inspiring quotations, punctuated with sunflowers, the emblematic symbol of the woman suffrage army, bright yellow flowers that turn their face to the light and righteousness.

Another tree, playful with push pin ornaments, will greet visitors in the Long room. A 1950’s tree tells the story of a past generation in the beautiful Octagon Room, delighting visitors with its bubble lights and shimmery lead icicles.

For Jean and her co-chair, Rebecca Dungan, who oversees the program committee for the RHM Board, it’s all about remembering the past through images and symbols of the times in a season where we are able to take time to remember.

When Jean joined the ranks of volunteers who bring Christmas in the 1870’s to life at RHM, she brought her love for the Christmas tree. And like Jean’s own house of trees, the trees each tell their own story. In Jean’s Granville home, she has an all-glass tree with a family collection of handmade glass ornaments dating back to the late 1800’s, an all Santa tree, a gingerbread tree, and more.

The first theme tree at the museum was the Civil War tree. “We really started the themes then,” Jean said. And for the first years, “we just moved that tree around,” Becky added.

“The Civil War Commemorative tree touched our visitors last year and will be followed this year be a WWI Commemorative tree honoring the Licking County soldiers who lost their lives in that war,” she added.

So then the idea caught on and the art of gathering original ornaments and crafting authentic reproductions took off. Becky herself, for example, has made virtually all of the ornaments for the 1870’s tree.

Others in the community contribute talents as well. Joanne Woodyard’s complete set of cut out Santas for the tree in the Hunter Room is here on loan while Nancy Eucker made blown eggs with pressed flower designs for the Egg Tree. “And the dried flower tree in the Doctor’s office is breathtaking,” Becky said.

All in all, the finished portrait of Christmas at Robbins Hunter Museum promises to live up to its name. Visit often during the season and take time to explore each and every tree.

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