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Christmas at the Miller House

December 11, 1997

Christmas at the Miller House

By Kate Coleman

Staff Writer

Photos by Kevin G. Gilbert

Staff photographer

Washington County garden clubs have decked the halls of the Miller House with international flair.

The tour begins in Germany, with welcoming swags of mixed greens on the front doors. Each features a hand-painted plaque picturing Santa - in a morning scene on one, an evening scene on the other. This greeting is the offering of Cumberland Valley Rose Society.

Crossroads Garden Club presents Poland on a chest in the front hall. Natural greens and natural-looking miniature evergreens surround a hand-painted Santa. There is a small creche and information on seasonal Polish customs and superstitions.

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The stairway, decorated by Hagerstown Garden Club, takes visitors to Mexico. Poinsettias, wrapped in cream-colored burlap and tied with red and ivory raffia, grace the stairs and surround the newel post which is topped by a simple wooden creche with adobe figures.

The 11 1/2-foot Fraser fir tree in the front drawing room was donated by Pat and Lee Stine. Pat Stine and her sister, Linda Irvin-Craig, decorated the imposing evergreen with ornaments found or made to represent many countries. There are dolls from Haiti, China, Holland and Africa. There are Christmas-colored "crackers" - popping party favors - representing the British Isles, and gold-glittery pretzels hanging for Germany.

Town and Country Garden Club used an assortment of greenery and porcelain figures to portray Christmas in Latin America on the mantel in the front drawing room.

Red, white and blue

The arch between the front and back drawing rooms is all-American. Washington County Historical Society commissioned Dennis Warrenfeltz for the garland of greens wrapped with star-studded blue fabric draped across the archway. Red-striped fabric bows are at either corner, and the centerpiece is a drum rimmed with golden strawflowers and a silvery surface made of money plant petals.

A place for holiday tea with plum pudding and scones is set at the desk in the back drawing room. Antietam Garden Club also brought a touch of the British Isles to the mantel with a variety of greens and hand-painted Dickens characters.

On a table at the back of the same room, Garden Club of Halfway has bordered a blanket of snow with pinecones. A wicker sleigh holds a mix of greens, raffia-bundled twigs and a few snowflakes. Nutcrackers and nesting Santas and dolls bring a touch of Eastern Europe to the arrangement.

In the child's tea room, dolls are gathered in honor of Sweden's St. Lucia's Day. Helen Arnold arranged the celebration with greens in the teapot and cookies on the table. A doll with a wreath of greens and candles on her head commemorates fourth-century Swedes carrying food to Christians hiding in tunnels.

Potomac Garden Club used a large three-wick white candle as the centerpiece of its dining room table arrangement for Denmark. There is a delicate blue-and-white teacup nestled in each of the four corners of the bed of greens.

The Carpathian Highlands in central Europe and are presented by Woodland Garden Club on the dining room mantel. Painted pottery figures and a rustic doll identify the region. The central arrangement of greens includes gold-glitter bordered silk poinsettias.

Twelfth Night tradition

On the mantel of the upstairs back bedroom, Spring Hill Garden Club represents the tradition of Twelfth Night in an arrangement of greens with wheat and a brass silhouette of the three wise men. In Spain on Jan. 6, children place grain-filled shoes in the doorway for the camels of the wise men who visited the Christ child on Twelfth Night. Candy and gifts fill the shoes in the morning.

Antietam Garden Club has decorated a tree in the child's bedroom to represent the British Isles. Father Christmas already has arrived, and antique toys from the Miller House collection look like they're having a wonderful time before the children wake up.

Chapelwood Garden Club brings Norway to the front bedroom. The mantel is decorated with an assortment of greens, bundles of wheat, berries and tiny birds made from dried milkweed pods and acorns.

The Miller House will be closed to tours from Sunday, Dec. 28, through Wednesday, April 1, 1998. However, the research library will be open Mondays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from noon until 4 p.m.

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