BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — It’s easy for some people to fall into a tradition without ever knowing its roots until, suddenly, they’re typing, “What does wassailing mean?” or “Why do we put oranges and coins in stockings?” into their phone.
These questions can be answered by a simple internet search, but for a more interactive and festive approach, those interested can find what they’re looking for at the Wolcott House in Maumee.
The Maumee Valley Historical Society has decorated the Wolcott House for Christmas with several holiday-centered exhibits for visitors to enjoy.
MVHS curator Kathy Dowd said people often follow certain traditions without knowing the history, so it’s important to educate everyone who comes through the doors.
“Every time we do an exhibit, I try to pull as much history as I can because so many people don’t know why certain traditions are significant,” Dowd said.
One exhibit contains information on St. Nicholas, a man believed to have been born around 280 A.D. in what is now modern-day Turkey, Dowd said.
St. Nicholas has inspired Christmastime traditions for nearly 2,000 years and is the reason families hang stockings filled with gifts from their fireplaces and why shoes are left out to be filled on December 6, she said.
“St. Nicholas was a real person and he later evolved into Santa Claus,” Dowd said. “The name was just a variation as languages changed.”
Many other traditions, like the ivy and holly used to decorate at the holidays were more symbolic. The two represent the thorns from the crucifixion and Mary, respectively, Dowd said. There’s even gold, frankincense and myrrh represented at the Wolcott House to remind visitors of why gifts are given, Dowd said.
Visitors can also see a print of the very first Christmas card that dates back to 1843.
“There was a Victorian gentleman who was very popular. He had a lot of friends who wanted him to come to events, and he had no time to do that,” Dowd said. “He thought he could make just one card to refuse and that was the very first Christmas card that went out.”
At each exhibit, guests can read about these stories and docents are there to pass on as much history as they can, too. Docent Alicia Lipinski echoed Dowd’s notion on the importance of preserving history.
Each exhibit is meant to engage visitors of every age, so they’ll be inclined to learn more and hopefully come back to the Wolcott Heritage Center.
“We’re happy to open the home at this time of year to show off the Christmas decorations, but we like to have people all year round, too,” Lipinski said.
The holiday season in particular, though, usually brings lots of joy to everyone at the Wolcott House, and even the outside of the house is decorated thanks to members of the Maumee Garden Club.
The Wolcott House is located at 1035 River Rd. in Maumee and is open for tours on Saturdays through December 17 at 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. Admission is $6.00 for adults, $5.00 for seniors and $2.50 for students.