Enjoying Holiday Nights as an Insider

Holiday Nights return to The Henry Ford this season! Today, Lish Dorset, social media manager for The Henry Ford, fills us in on what makes this celebration special to her and what she’s looking forward to seeing from her behind-the-scenes view this year.

Posing for a family photo in Henry Ford Museum, 1986

If you live in metro Detroit, chances are you’ve been to Holiday Nights here at The Henry Ford at some point. While Greenfield Village closes down for the season in about a week, we open back up at night during the weekends to celebrate the holiday season. This year’s Holiday Nights will be a very special visit for me – it’s my first time as an employee of The Henry Ford and my first chance to see all of the hard work that happens behind the scenes.

Skaters take to the ice rink

Growing up in Birmingham, my family’s Christmas tradition has been to spend Christmas Eve morning at Henry Ford Museum. Year after year we took our family portrait of the small cousins in front of the gigantic Christmas tree housed in the museum plaza. When Holiday Nights started more than 10 years ago, our family, with us cousins now looking more like grown-ups, added that to our must-do holiday activity list. We spent hours ice skating, touring the homes, and enjoying some mulled cider as we awaited the holidays.

Warming station help keep guests and presenters warm during Holiday Nights

I had the chance to take my fiance and best friend to Holiday Nights last year for their first visits. We watched the Liberty Craftworks glass artists pull beautiful candy canes, a favorite among THF members, as we learned more about glass blowing and all the crafts they produce for the holidays. December in Michigan tends to be fairly cold, so a visit to the glass shop and their hot furnaces was a welcomed stop from my group. A visit to the Guild Beer Hall didn’t hurt, either!

Holiday Nights preparation is officially underway, even though it seems like we just put away the last of the Hallowe’en scarecrows and pumpkins! As I drive down Village Road past Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum, I’m always excited to see which decoration was put up that morning. It’s not unusual to see rows upon rows of dark green wreaths being prepared for hanging or our grounds crew surveying the best location to add more accessories.

Singing the night away...

And it’s beginning to look a lot more like the holidays inside the museum, too. The model trains have been getting a holiday makeover over by the Allegheny Locomotive, and the gift shop is packed with ornaments, brand-new toys, and the latest handmade offerings from Greenfield Village’s artisans for holiday gift giving.

While I’m lucky enough to see some of the hard work that goes into another exciting year of Holiday Nights, you can bet I’ll be out wandering Greenfield Village in just a few short weeks with my fiance and friends, celebrating the holidays and starting another round of festive traditions.

Lish Dorset is the social media manager for The Henry Ford in Dearborn. She lives in Royal Oak with her fiance and fat cat, Ronnie. When she’s not sharing some of her favorite artifacts from the collections of The Henry Ford with fans on Facebook, she’s at home crafting. You can learn more about Holiday Nights by check out The Henry Ford’s blog.

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.