Pure Michigan Holiday Light Events

The holidays are a busy time of year. There are parties, shopping and preparations to be made for family visits. That’s why it’s nice to sometimes just take in the scenery of the season. There are some great events coming up this month with some amazing light and holiday displays to enjoy at your leisure. For a full list of events check out michigan.org.

Holly Dickens Festival
December 9 – 11, 2011, Holly
See the characters from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” come to life on the streets of Historic Downtown Holly during the annual Holly Dickens Festival. Make special memories with your family while enjoying carriage rides, caroling choirs, hot roasted chestnuts and much, much more amidst unique shops and the Victorian atmosphere of the holidays. Head to the Holly Dickens Festival site for full event details and schedule.

Candle Light Christmas Walk
December 9 – 11, 2011, Marshall
The Marshall Historical Society’s Christmas Candlelight Tour is a highly personalized walking tour of five private homes decorated for the holidays. This is a walking tour of approximately 1.5 miles at a slow pace. Ticks are $20 sold in advance and only 600 tickets are sold. For more information, call (269) 781-5163.

The Big, Bright Light Show
Now-January 1, 2012, Rochester
You are invited to brighten your holidays in downtown Rochester with The Big, Bright Light Show! All the buildings on Main Street from the south bridge to Romeo Rd. will be covered in over a million points of light, along with East and West Fourth Street. Also, there will be large, lighted displays on Walnut from Third to University, The Dazzling Tree of Lights at the Depot Plaza (E. University & Water), and The Snowflake Spectacular on the Western Knitting Mill on Water Street. For more information on this event, visit their website or call (248) 656-0060.

Christmas at Crossroads Holiday Magic
Now – December 30, 2011, Flint
This holiday fantasyland features thousands of sparkling lights and Michigan’s most spectacular moving light display, the Huckleberry Railroad. The entire village is aglow with colored lights and more lights decorate the railroad’s locomotive, coaches and trackside displays. For information and reservations call (800).648-PARK or visit the Christmas at Crossroads Holiday Magic site.

Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village
December 9 – 10, 16 – 23, 26 – 27, 2011, Dearborn
Marvel at the splendor of a turn-of-the-century old-fashioned holiday experience complete with carolers and live reindeer along candlelit paths at this historic location.  For more information visit the Holiday Nights site. You can also call (800) 835-5237 or (313) 982-6001.

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.


Discovering Secrets of the Civil War this Summer at Henry Ford Museum

“With his horses killed, his men dead, and his supports overwhelmed and driven back, the enemy rushed upon the battery. Van Pelt, as the last act of his young life, drew his sword and sprang to the front of his pieces, with that inexplicable frenzy which supplies with strength as with courage, he cried with a voice of thunder, ‘Don’t dare touch these guns.’  Onward the inexorable wave of glistening bayonets surged, over and past him, burying him under his lost guns.”

- New York Herald newspaper, 1863

Civil War Weekend - Greenfield Village

Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln, General Custer. You probably learned all about these names in history class. But had you ever heard Lieutenant George Van Pelt’s story, or know why he defended the battle guns in the Loomis Battery right to the end of his life? He was willing to die for this battery because it was a source of pride for Michigan during the Civil War and in several key battles for the Union.

Hidden stories like these are a central part of Discovering the Civil War, the traveling exhibition on display this summer at Henry Ford Museum. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the war, and for the first time, this exhibit – which usually tours the country in three parts – has come together for the ultimate Civil War buff to dive into.
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