A Visit to the National Christmas Center
Yes, Virginia, Santa Claus delights at the National Christmas Family Center tucked in a corner of Lancaster, PA., a little over an hour from the Philadelphia area. An enchanting place for any family to visit, it costs little per person. Children are only $5. The museum will cheer all generations with its 15 exhibits of fun, plus some ever-changing smaller exhibits, 20,000 sq.-ft. and 300 nativity scenes of all sizes, including a trip back in time to Bethlehem. Soon, visitors will be able to stroll through am outdoor Christmas village. Upon entering the center, staff in colorful green and red garb, some wearing candy-cane stockings, greet travelers from everywhere.
Jim Morrison, the curator, who resembles Santa himself with his fierce whitish-gray beard, mustache and shag of hair and a red shirt that covers a round belly, created the center.
Immediately through a gate to the museum, images on the wall and Santa figures explain how the man evolved from St. Nicholas to his modern-day version.
Nearby, kids can learn of other countries’ Christmas celebrations with Germany’s Weihnachtsmann, Russia’s Grandfather Frost, Father Christmas of England and St. Lucie of Sweden, among others. Children’s eyes will open wide with the assortment of little toys on the glass shelves costing only 10 cents at F.W. Woolworth. Parents can read their young ones a Christmas tale of dressed up animal characters similar to a stories of Beatrice Potter, while their tots plant their noses against windows playing out the Christmas tale’s cozy scenes.
Then there is the North Pole, with the elves busily hammering the toys and Santa himself available to have your young one on his knee for photos for a fee. Toyland with its mass of trains, puppets, dollhouses, dolls, wooden car kits and even Mrs. and Mr. Claus playing on a sea-saw in the snow will delight all.
But what means the most to those who come to experience a little Christmas at this museum, including children? Morrison said that's the Baby Jesus himself. Small nativities from all over the world line the glass cases along a hall, even one from Laos where boar come to visit the Christ Child because the country does not have sheep.
A beautiful, large detailed nativity where the Virgin Mary’s face expresses her love for her son brings the exhibit together. Most fitting as visitors leaves the center, a winding road takes them through Bethlehem with the marketplace and music of the time, Joseph’s carpenter shop, the inn, and the manger, the dangers and the artifacts.
The National Christmas Museum will restore the faith of a family that the season is not about commercialism and has a deeper meaning. The museum is open seven days a week most of the year. Find more information on the website, or call 717-442-7950. Visitors have recorded in the guest book that their trip there was “awesome.” It is worth the ride to Lancaster to visit memories and make new ones for your children.
Ingrid Floyd is a freelance writer.