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Bell Homestead wraps up another year of Victorian-era Christmas

ChristmasBell Homestead wraps up another year of Victorian-era Christmas

The Bell Homestead officially wrapped up its annual Candlelight Christmas Celebration on Saturday, December 16, 2023. Tours took place over the first three Saturdays of the month.

With the light of cranberry glass filling the entrance of the foyer, the ambiance of the warm lighting set the tone for the evening tour.

“Alexander and his two parents moved into this house in the year 1870 when they emigrated from Edinburgh, Scotland,” said Hannah Mills Calnan, museum guide. 

Throughout the tour, visitors learned about Victorian Christmas traditions intertwined with historical stories about the Bell Family and the invention of the telephone.

Kristin Vollick and Dan McDonald play the Bodhrán and Celtic Harp during the Candlelight Christmas Celebration tour of the Bell Homestead on Saturday, December 16, 2023.

In groups of a maximum of eight, the tour took visitors through each room of the Bell family home, starting in the foyer before moving onto the family’s library.

Melville Bell (Alexander Graham Bell’s father) commonly used the library to write lectures, read, teach his students, or to enjoy a cigar after dinner. A small Christmas tree made of green dyed goose feathers, sat on display on a table in the middle of the room. The table-sized tree is a representation of the first artificial Christmas trees of the time.

Guests learn about the history of the library, as well as small goose feather trees, during the Candlelight Christmas Celebration tour of the Bell Homestead on Saturday, December 16, 2023.

Up next, guests made their way to the dining room which featured a few dishes owned by the family, a melodeon (the first instrument played over the telephone), art by Eliza Bell (Alexander’s mother) and another small tree donned with citrus decor. Turkey, geese, and plum pudding would have been Victorian-era Christmas favourites enjoyed in the room.

Over in the kitchen, guests got to try a taste of gingersnap and cardamom-lemon cookies, before learning more about the kitchen’s features such as the old cold cellar which was left behind during the move of the house up from the river. 

Upstairs, guests got a look at the home’s four bedrooms, as well as a glass case holding a calling card, tie pins, an original house key, a poetry book and a broach.

Guests learn about the addition of fresh citrus décor during the Candlelight Christmas Celebration tour of the Bell Homestead on Saturday, December 16, 2023.

The two back bedrooms belonged to Alexander’s parents as it was popular to have two separate rooms during this time to avoid the spread of germs, while his sister-in-law slept in the third room. The fourth bedroom was originally Alexanders before he was moved downstairs into his workshop as he had a tendency to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, often waking his family members.

Back downstairs, the parlour room was decorated for the Christmas season and created a festive atmosphere within the Bell family home.

Adults would typically be the only ones allowed to be in the room, however, during the Christmas season, children were allowed to occupy it as well. Musicians, Dan McDonald and Kristin Vollick sat in the back of the room filling the house with carols throughout the tour.

One museum staff member prepares gingersnap and cardamom-lemon cookies for guests during the Candlelight Christmas Celebration tour of the Bell Homestead on Saturday, December 16, 2023.

A large tree in the room was decorated with string popcorn, candy canes, unlit candles, gifts, and other natural items. 

Guess then made their way to Alexander’s bedroom and workshop to see the many telephone prototypes, books, drawings and other various inventions.

Before the tour wrapped, guests headed over to the Henderson house. The home features the first telephone office created by Melville Bell and Reverend Thomas Phillip Henderson. Here, visitors got to learn about the first switch boards and the evolution of the telephone throughout the years.

Hannah Mills Calnan, museum guide, explains the inner workings of an early switchboard during the Candlelight Christmas Celebration tour of the Bell Homestead on Saturday, December 16, 2023.

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