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Tea and tradition for the holidays

Museum takes visitors back to colonial times

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POSTED: December 30, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Photo by Patty Leon/

Longtime curator Joann Clark watches her granddaughter, Daphne Eller, and great-granddaughter, Vega Eller, sing and dance in front of the outdoor hearth at Saturday's Christmas Tea at The Midway Museum.

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With Christmas only 11 days away, there is a tendency, especially if you are away from your family, to conjure up Christmas memories.
Nostalgia is one thing, but there is a family in Midway that helps local residents get a more historical perspective of Christmas.
Four generations of that family took part in The Midway Museum’s annual Christmas Tea on Saturday. The event, the museum’s 10th, took visitors back to Christmas during the Colonial period.
“It really gives people a sense of how simple things were back then,” said Dianne Behrens. “It was not all focused on what am I getting this person or what am I getting. Back then, it was a family gathering and storytelling.”
Keeping old ways alive is something that comes easy for Behrens. Her mother, Joann Clark, has been the museum’s curator for more than 30 years. Behrens, who has helped take over the museum’s reins, has passed down those Colonial traditions to her daughter, Daphne Eller, and granddaughter, Vega.
“I think it’s very important,” Behrens said. “I think the kids today are losing sight of how Christmas was. What we want to do is keep this in the family and just keep it going so people will know. I learn things from my mother every day, and I know Daphne plans to pass things down to little Vega.”
The visitors at the tea were treated to a tour of the museum by tour guides dressed in authentic Colonial-period clothes. The museum’s exterior and interior were decorated, but in a much different way than most homes today.
“Back then, they decorated with what they had,” Behrens said. “Mostly fruit, pine, greenery and stuff. They didn’t have any bulbs, it was just really simple.”
Outside, guests were treated to hot tea, hot chocolate and tasty treats as a fire glowed from the hearth.
Behrens said this generation has a tendency to forget the true meaning of tradition and family. She said it is easy for young people to disconnect from their family by being on the computer, watching TV in their room or walking around with iPod earphones stuck in their ears.  She prefers the simpler times of the past to reconnect with her loved ones.
“We meet at my mother’s house, and my dad always gets the family Bible out,” she said. “He reads Luke (chapter) 2, the Christmas story. Then we go around the room and everyone says what they are thankful for. We’ve done that ever since I can remember. It’s different, and it’s great because you really get to know your family.”
 

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