Old Time Christmas December 12 - 23
The community is invited to experience the simple warmth and beauty of Christmas past as our historic village brings to life the holiday traditions of yesteryear with Vermilionville’s Old Time Christmas. The program begins on December 12-17 and resumes again on December 19-23 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. There will also be a family day on December 16 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. where everyone can experience our historic village during the holidays. Visitors will have the chance to take a self-guided tour with a special event program to see firsthand some of the Christmas and New Years traditions from the 17 and 1800s like making santons ("little saints"), candles, soap, Victorian paper ornaments, citrus pomanders and more.
The first stop along the tour is La Maison des Cultures where you’ll meet Chief John “Sitting Bear” Mayeux of the Avogel Tribe and Janice “Morning Sun” Mayeux of the Mississippi Philadelphia Choctaw Tribe. Janice will be doing Native American storytelling, and Chief will tell you about Native American gift giving traditions.
In La Cabanage de Piégeur (the Trapper’s Cabin), you will meet Papa Noël, the French Santa Claus, who was actually a trapper who would
deliver presents such as candy, money or small toys. You may also spot Papa Noël checking out the bonfires down by Le Petit Bayou. Children
would light a bonfire and leave their shoes by it so Papa Noël knew where to stop. They would also leave carrots for Papa Noël’s donkey Gui (French for “Mistletoe”), who will be making trips throughout the village. Make sure to chat with Richard as well, who will be making wooden toys in
the Trapper’s Cabin.
The next home to visit would be Beau Bassin where you will learn about how the Acadians decorated for Christmas using natural materials. They would bring in evergreen clippings from the outside to brighten things up since the weather was so dreary in the winter. Here, you can learn about how our cotton spinner’s family has prepared for Papa Noël’s arrival while giving a demonstration on this textile tradition.
The tour will then continue to l’École (the schoolhouse) where you can learn about and sing Christmas Carols including “Silent Night,” and “Jingle Bells.” These carols are from the time period of 1765-1890. You may also have the chance to sing along to “Bonne Année,” a New Year’s Eve song.
Stop in side of la Maison Mouton where you will learn about the differences between Christmas in the modern day and the Christmas of yesteryear. In here, you can meet Cliff the woodcarver and see the toys he has been working on.
Exit through the Mouton Kitchen to learn about soap making, a wintertime staple. Ingredients in soap making of the old days include lye and hog lard; lye
comes from leaching water through wood ash and hog lard is the fat from the pig. Soap making was done in the winter after the boucherie when
a hog was slaughtered. Hog lard was byproduct from this process.
You will then head on over to Maison Buller to learn about candle making with our gardener, Michael. Candles were a very important tool because there was no electricity and they could only be made in the winter when it was cold enough for the wax to keep its shape and not melt.
From there you will head to la Chapelle des Attakapas (the chapel) for storytelling. You will also learn about the French Christmas tradition where figurines, santons (little saints), were made to represent saints or nativity scenes, but eventually expanded to represent people in the towns. This tradition started during the French Revolution when churches were forcibly closed and large nativity scenes were prohibited. In la Chapelle, Lynn will be reading from the Cajun “Night Before Christmas” and making popcorn garlands.
Maison Boucvalt is where visitors will learn about citrus pomanders, a Victorian era air freshener made with citrus fruits decorated with cloves. This house will be the only one decorated with a Christmas tree since most of the elements of modern Christmas are products of the Victorian era. Here, Joe and Joseph will be making paper wish chains and citrus pomanders. Don’t forget to stop by the Performance Center as well to make your own Victorian paper ornaments!
The final stop on the Old Time Christmas Village Tour is Maison Broussard. It is here you will learn about the tradition of Le Réveillon. Some families would gather for a nice dinner after midnight mass on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve called Le Réveillon. Le Réveillon comes from the French word reveil, which means “waking.” The smells of a delicious gâteau de sirop (syrup cake) wafting through the air will lead you to the Broussard kitchen, where Em will tell you about this old-time treat that she’s making over an open fire.
We need volunteers to greet guests, work with kids at craft stations, bring water to workers throughout the village and assist at the information kiosk. Let us know if you are ready to serve others and enrich your life. Please contact our Volunteer Coordinator at outreach@BayouVermilionDistrict.org or call 337-233-4077 ext. 215.
We hope you will enjoy your time at Vermilionville’s Old Time Christmas and understand how our area’s cultures once celebrated this holiday season.