Art News roundup Experience holiday traditions of yore at Fort Nisqually’s 19th Century Christmas

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Fort Nisqually will be the scene of “19th Century Christmas,” the annual event that features the cutting of the yule log and a visit from Santa. Visitors can also learn the art of silhouette cutting, which was an early form of portraiture in an era before photography. photo courtesy of Metro Parks Tacoma

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of modern holidays and experience a real old-fashioned Christmas at Fort Nisqually Living History Museum.

19th Century Christmas. photo courtesy of Lauren Muney

Everyone can join in greeting the yule log with toasts and Christmas carols. Guests will have a chance to take home a piece of the log for their own holiday fire. Throughout the day, visitors of all ages can join in parlor games, make ornaments, and create pomanders. Father Silhouette Christmas will be available for visits and photos throughout the day.

This year Fort Nisqually is excited to welcome artist Lauren Muney of “Silhouettes by Hand”  (www.silhouettesbyhand.com). Lauren’s silhouette portraits of guests are cut freehand with scissors, without drawing or tracing, and are finished in less than two minutes. There is no additional fee for having portraits made. Timed tickets to receive a portrait will be distributed during the event. We suggest visitors arrive early to take home this special memento.

“Silhouettes were a favorite form of portraiture for people in the 1850’s, a time when painted portraits were expensive and photography was still uncommon” said Event coordinator Allison Campbell. “We hope visitors will keep them as a souvenir from their visit to the 19th century, or give them as a special gift.”

19th Century Christmas has its roots in the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company trading post. On Christmas, Fort Nisqually’s manager regularly gave “the best rations the place could afford” — typically meat, flour, molasses, sugar and tallow — to the Fort’s laborers. The Native Americans named the holiday “Hyas Sunday,” Chinook jargon for “Big Sunday.” Dancing and singing were recorded in the Fort’s historical journals.

Located in Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum is a restoration of the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost on Puget Sound. Guests experience life in Washington Territory during the 1850s. Nine buildings are open to the public, including the Granary and the Factors House, both National Historic Landmarks, and a Visitor Center with Museum Store.

Event admission is $8-$10, and children 3 and younger are free. For more information call (253) 591-5339 or visit www.metroparkstacoma.org/fort-nisqually-living-history-museum.

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