By Tom Uhlenbrock
Missouri State Parks
How’s this for a recipe for a delicious Christmas celebration – a French feast with 13 different desserts.
That’s the menu at the Felix Valle House State Historic Site in Ste. Genevieve from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 9. The free event recreates the customs of a French Christmas from the 1830s, when Felix Valle and his wife, Odile, lived in the house.
The house will be lit with candles, live folk music will be played on a hammered dulcimer in the parlor and the staff will be in period costumes to explain French traditions.
“We decorate the whole downstairs with boxwoods, holly and pine and hang an advent wreath,” said Donna Rausch, acting site administrator. “The food is set out in the dining room.
“The public will get to sample the 13 desserts. We will have a pear pie, cookies, gingerbread, black walnut tarts and a crunchy cream puff shaped like a tree. The main one is buche de Noel, a chocolate recreation of a yule log.”
Felix Valle is one of eight state parks or historic sites that will mark the holiday season with special events, which include winter hikes, visits with Santa, flaming plum pudding and plenty of treats and hot cocoa.
First Missouri State Capitol State Historic Site in the Missouri River town of St. Charles has a full schedule, with candlelight Christmas concerts in the legislative chambers on two evenings and historic games, toys and novelties for sale in an old-fashion store.
“The candles give a really warm glow, the windows get all frosted, the fireplace is crackling – it has a real old-timey ambience about it,” said Sue Love, the site’s interpretive specialist. “It’s really a neat experience to shop for old toys and games by candlelight. It is run as it was in the 1820s, except you’re not allowed to barter.”
Geoffrey Seitz & The Dugout Canoe will perform traditional music on the mandolin and fiddle at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15. The Buckhannon Bros. also will perform traditional music at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22. Tickets are $8 and are available at the historic site in St. Charles.
The 1823 poem “The Night Before Christmas” will be recited on the hour starting at noon on Sunday, Dec. 16. Warm cider and cookies will be served, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus are expected. Reservations are not needed, but are recommended, as space is limited at the free event.
The Peck Bros. Dry Goods and Hardware store will be open for candlelight shopping from 5-9 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 19, and again on Friday, Dec. 21. Candlelight tours of the Capitol building will be given from 5:30-8 p.m. on the same two evenings. Interpreters in historic clothing will tell of Missouri’s early statehood struggles and frontier life.
For information on the First Capitol events, call (636) 940-3322.
Here are events scheduled at the other six parks or historic sites:
Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site north of Kansas City: “Christmas on the Farm” will be held from 2-7 p.m. on Dec. 1. The free event will feature an open house at the Watkins family home with caroling, a visit from Father Christmas and holiday treats, such as cookies and plum pudding made from Watkins family recipes. The visitor center will have children’s crafts and holiday music.
Deutschheim State Historic Site in Hermann: “Weihnachtsfest,” a traditional 19th-century German Christmas celebration, will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 1-2 and Dec. 8-9. The free event is in the 1840 Pommer- Gentner House, which will be decorated with authentic ornaments and toys from the 1800s. There will be samples of German Christmas cookies and a gift shop with cookie molds, rolling pins and recipe books.
Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site in New Madrid: Free candlelight tours will be given of the 15-room mansion from 6-8:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14-15. The house will be decorated in Victorian style and illuminated by oil lamps and candles. Staff dressed in historic clothing will welcome guests and serve period refreshments.
Crowder State Park near Trenton: The park staff will lead a “Winter Wonderland Hike” from 10 a.m. till noon on Friday, Dec. 21, the first day of winter. After the hike, enjoy Christmas and nature stories while you make a craft to take home. Call (660) 359-6473 to make reservations or for more information.
Dillard Mill State Historic Site south of Steelville: Santa Claus will hand out goodies at this picturesque mill from noon till 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15. The staff will serve home-baked cookies and hot cocoa. Visitors are invited to walk through the mill. Dress warm and bring a camera for photos with Santa.
For more information, visit mostateparks.com. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Department of Natural Resources.