Just as it did in the 1800s, Christmas decorating begins early at Liberty Hall, the ancestral home of the Kenan family in Kenansville. Even though fir trees can be purchased today rather than searching the woods for a pine or red cedar, looking for the perfect Christmas tree still takes a little work!
The day after Thanksgiving will be spent gathering greenery of all kinds. By day’s end, no less than 12 large trash bags will be filled, dampened and placed in the cool dark garden shop. The next day the staff will make 45 wreaths to be used inside and out on all the buildings. Even earlier than that, time has been spent deciding on colors and any unusual pieces that can be incorporated into the unique designs used throughout the house.
A large number of hand-dipped candles must be purchased and on hand. During the Candlelight tours at Liberty Hall over 288 candles will be burned. While creating beautiful arrangements with fruit and live greenery, care is taken to protect the mantels and furniture.
When the time comes for the Candlelight tours most of the local stores are out of gumdrops. It takes just over six pounds of gumdrops to make one 17-inch gumdrop tree. Several gumdrop trees will be on display at Liberty Hall.
The labor-intense and time-consuming process of decorating is soon forgotten when the staff looks at the festive results. This year, the staff is looking forward to having four new volunteers to help decorate. Ann Carter and Lois Hall from Wallace as well as Joanne Parker and Christine Ryce from Jacksonville will share their decorating talent and add their special touch.
Before 1900 very few private homes had Christmas trees. Records tell us that Liberty Hall always had a big pine or red cedar adorned with many beautiful crocheted items, dried flowers and other homemade ornaments. Keeping that tradition alive, Liberty Hall will have three-eight foot trees decorated with a variety of hand-made items again this year. The servant’s quarters and the overseer’s office will be less elaborate but very homey with the pine, cotton, and grapevine wreaths. The flames dancing and crackling in the fireplaces add to the coziness of the rooms.
When the decorating is complete, it takes an additional 27 volunteers willing to give up their first weekend in December to make the Candlelight tours successful. Without talented and generous people, it would be impossible to have the annual Candlelight tours. Curtis Fountain, Newt Carter and Tom Fife have been tour guides for the past ten years. For fifteen years, Susan Sanderson and Wanda Wheeler have been room interpreters. Riley Stroud, a fourth grader at Kenansville Elementary, will be making her debut in the parlor with Kim Ramsey this year. Seasonal music will be provided by Mr. and Mrs. Randall Tyndall of Pink Hill. The Tyndall’s, very talented dulcimer players, will get the tours started on a lively note. As in years past, re-enactors will be camped under the trees with their tents, campfires, and interesting tales of days gone by.
“I cannot express enough gratitude to the volunteers who are always willing to do whatever is asked of them,” stated Jo Ann Stroud, Curator.
Candlelight tours are Dec. 1 from 6 – 8 p.m. and Dec. 2 from 5 – 8 p.m. Please call 910-296-2175 for reservations and admissions costs. Tours begin every 15 minutes and takes about an hour.