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Renfrew Decks the Halls for an Old Time Christmas

December 03, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - With gentle strokes on the finely tuned strings, the hammer dulcimer emits a familiar tune. Listening to the tune, a lady nearby quietly sings along, "Deck the halls with boughs of holly."

As visitors to Renfrew Christmas walk through the old farmhouse and past Tom Jolin playing carols on the dulcimer, they point to the many decorations and whisper to one another.

In every room of the 19th-century house, boughs of holly, sprigs of pine, bowls of fruit and strings of pine cones adorn window sills, mantles and tabletops.

"This is the way Christmas used to be," said Bonnie Iseminger, administrator of Renfrew Museum and Park.

Friday and Saturday, staff and volunteers at Renfrew welcomed visitors to Renfrew Christmas. A celebration of old-time Christmas traditions, Iseminger said, the two-day open house is a thank-you note to the community.

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"We belong to the Borough of Waynesboro, and this is how we give back," she said.

Members of the Toll Gate Garden Club and the Blue Ridge Summit Garden Club spent last week crafting the decorations, some of which were raffled off to benefit the museum.

For each of its 31 years, Renfrew Museum and Park has hosted Renfrew Christmas. The free event features an open house, music, storytelling and refreshments.

Sue Smith, supervisor of visitor services, said Renfrew Christmas is a quiet, simple celebration that spreads the spirit of the holidays.

"There is no pressure, no stress and no charge," she said. "It is the polar opposite to Black Friday."

Several visitors to the two-day celebration said they came for the decorations.

"People tell me they just love the decorations," said Sara Sebold, a volunteer at Renfrew Christmas.

Rosemary Mack of Germantown, Md., came to the event for the first time this year and was taken with simplicity of the decorations.

"They are beautiful, the cranberries, oranges and pine," she said. "It's like you get to go back in time and see what Christmas was like then."

Inspired by tradition and created from nature, Iseminger said the decorations were designed to give visitors a sense of how the family who lived in the old house would have decked the halls back in the early 1800s.

"Back then, they didn't have all the glitz we now associate with Christmas," Iseminger said. "They would have made their decorations from what was around the farm."

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