Memories, Model Ts and Magical Holiday Nights

Photo by Michelle Andonian Michelle Andonian Photography

“How does he know my name?”

Those were five-year-old Henry’s words. He stood waving at Santa who—from many yards away on the balcony of the historic Robert Frost House at Greenfield Village—called out my son’s name and asked him what he wanted for Christmas. Henry, who has always been a bit of a skeptic when it came to that jolly man in red, stood there stunned. And believed.

Suspended disbelief.

If you know the phrase, it’s what happens when you’re watching a play, a movie, or reading a book—when you’re pulled into the story and accept it as real. Even if just for a moment.

Photo by Michelle Andonian Michelle Andonian Photography

That’s what happens to my family when we step foot into Greenfield Village. The historic houses, the period-clothed presenters and actors, the sights, the sounds, the smells. Sure, some of us have a cell phone in our pocket, a digital camera at our necks and maybe even an iPad conveniently tucked in a bag, but we are always drawn into the compelling story the village tells. We find that especially true during The Henry Ford’s annual Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village celebrations.

The streets are candle and lamp-lit, the halls are decked, the carolers are caroling and the chestnuts are roasting. Once you enter the village gates, you’re quickly transported right into a one-of-a-kind Currier and Ives, Christmas-meets-Henry-Ford scene, complete with horse-drawn wagons and Model Ts. And, although we’ve attended many Holiday Nights over the years, taking a stroll through an old-fashioned Greenfield Village Christmas is always a welcome tradition.

Photo by Roy Ritchie

There’s so much to see and do. You can take a ride on a wagon or Model T; admire the miniature train display and gingerbread houses; stop for mulled cider or other tasty treats; warm your hands and feet at one of the many bonfires; watch and listen to musical performances; and learn about Christmas crafts and celebrations of days gone by. There is a pond for ice skating; a beautiful fireworks display and sing-along; real live reindeer; and for the child in all of us, the magic of Santa Claus.

Henry is 10 now. But he remembers that day so clearly. As we talked about making our plans to go to Holiday Nights in December, his eyes lit up as he reminded me of that moment when he was so surprised that Santa knew his name. He smiled with the anticipation of his little sister and brother’s reactions when they see the reindeer and Santa calls out, “Lillian and Clifford,” and then Henry, along with the rest of us will again—at least for that moment—believe.

Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village run from 6:30-10 p.m., December 2-3, 9-10, 16-23 and 26-27, 2011. There are limited tickets for each night, and weekends often sell out. I’d recommend purchasing tickets soon. I’d also recommend arriving early, since the night flies by with so much to do. Be sure to dress warmly. There are also two very nice dinner packages available during Holiday Nights: Supper with Santa and a dinner at Eagle Tavern.

Kristine Hass is a mother of five, a freelance writer and a long-time member of The Henry Ford. She frequently blogs about her family’s visits to America’s Greatest History Attraction.