The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

One of the things we love most about the holidays is visiting the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford. First, there’s the model railroad. As many as five of 150 locomotives and 300 freight cars run simultaneously on more than 2,000 feet of track, winding past a village, stone quarry, oil refinery, mountains and waterfall as Santa and his sleigh fly overhead. This year’s display highlights the train experience in Japan after WWII, with model trains by Sakai, Stronlite, Ajin and IMP. Second, there’s the critter ornaments, handmade by local volunteers for sale to support the museum and programs. The decorations will adorn seven trees on the first and third floors, and charming critter scenes will surround the base of the trees and fill display cases. One towering tree, also decorated with critter ornaments, will rise three stories through the central lobby. For sale in the gift shop will be “Teasel & Twigs, ‘Tis a Critter Christmas Tale” a new children’s picture book about the critter ornaments. This year’s celebration also features “Pop-Up! Illustration in 3-D,” a display of books that range from late 19th-century examples to sophisticated constructions designed by contemporary paper engineers working with noted artist-illustrators like Edward Gorey, Maurice Sendak and Tomie dePaola. To show the complexity of the process, the exhibition includes pre-production mock-ups by Chuck Fischer, Edward Gorey and Robert Sabuda. Also on view is “Donald Pywell: Golden Impressions of Andrew Wyeth,” which features exquisitely crafted jewelry by Pywell and inspired by Wyeth’s paintings. Pywell collaborated with Wyeth on the design for each piece. Everything is on display Nov. 23-Jan. 6. As part of A Brandywine Christmas, choral groups from local schools will provide musical entertainment in the second floor lobby throughout December. A complete list of the groups, with the dates and times of their performances, can be found on the museum’s Web site. (610) 388-2700,

Wonderful Winterthur

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Themed A Feast for the Eyes, Yuletide at Winterthur is designed to tempt visitors with visions of holidays past and spark ideas for their own celebrations. Guests can explore how Americans have celebrated the winter social season from the 1800s to the present during the Yuletide at Winterthur tour through Jan. 6. In celebration of the exhibition “Uncorked! Wine, Objects & Tradition,” several displays explore customs of drinking and dining as they relate to the holidays, and The Court invites visitors to step into a 19th-century market square where a variety of goods necessary for winter festivities are sold. The setting and mood evoke images of people from all walks of life strolling through cold cobblestone streets. Then proceed upstairs to see how those goods were used to create holiday displays and experiences. Visitors can explore how the ideal holiday meal evolved from the “groaning board” of the Colonial era to the sophisticated elegance of the early national period. A lavish Victorian-era setting focuses on festive trappings, a glittering tree and a table arrayed with towers of gifts. There’s more, including classes and workshops on holiday entertaining and decorating, so check the Web site. And don’t miss the live performances of “A Christmas Carol” by Gerald Charles Dickens, the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens. It happens Dec. 13. 888-4600,

More Classic Holiday Celebrations

The Delaware Art Musuem’s 28th Annual Holiday House Tour happens Dec. 8. The self-guided tour features 10 spectacular Wilmington-area homes and studios bedecked for the season. Highlights include a one-room schoolhouse-turned-home, a Georgian Colonial, and a townhouse constructed with reclaimed church pews. The Museum will be open for shopping at 12 artisan booths—wares include jewelry, fused glass, fiber and handbags, and more—in the museum store, and there will be live seasonal music and light holiday fare in the Thronson Café.

The DCCA presents its Alternatives Holiday Craft Show on Dec. 7 during the DCCA Art Loop. Meet more than 20 artisans and enjoy beautifully designed contemporary handmade crafts, from jewelry, ceramics and quilts, to spices and metalwork. While there enjoy “Rise and Fall: Monumental Duct Tape Drawings.” Artist Joseph Girandola visualizes the world’s greatest architectural wonders out of duct tape. Employing a quick-fix material to depict crumbling artifacts, Girandola creates a wry commentary on past and present empires.

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Christmas at Hagley cultivates sharing and giving. This year’s theme is Holiday Entertaining at Home. The morning room of Eleutherian Mills is set for the New Year’s Day calling, the dining room celebrates Twelfth Night, and the terrace is ready for Christmas lunch. Visitors are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy or clothing item for donation to the Sunday Breakfast Mission. The event continues until Jan. 9 658-2400,

Nemours Mansion & Gardens is open for holiday tours through Dec. 30. This world-famous du Pont estate is beautifully decorated for Christmas, with antiques from its historic collection along with new items that celebrate the season. Christmas trees, garlands, sprays, paper filigree “quilling,” hand-painted ornaments, miniature churches, original holiday cards, a manger scene and original toys from the du Pont estate all add to the festive setting. Reservations are required. 800-651-6912,

Rockwood Museum is decorated with a musical theme though Jan. 7. Take a rare evening tour of the museum during its candlelight holiday tours Dec. 8 and Dec. 15.

Finally, A Longwood Christmas is always a highlight of the season. Inside Longwood’s 4-acre Conservatory, trees shimmer with star-inspired ornaments. In the Exhibition Hall, twinkling lights hang from the vaulted glass ceiling over a 64-foot-long table dressed for a holiday gathering. Living wreaths, floral displays, and trees as tall as 22 feet bring the magic of the season to life. Outdoors, more than 500,000 lights brighten the night. Fountains dance to holiday music in the Open Air Theatre (weather permitting). And the outdoor train display travels past miniature Longwood landmarks lit for the season. Music includes sing-alongs on Longwood’s majestic 10,010-pipe Aeolian organ, and evening choral and bell choir performances by area groups. In the Chimes Tower, a 62-bell carillon plays holiday music every half hour. Strolling performances fill the gardens with music on weekends. See it through Jan. 6.

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The timeless “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens gets a merry retelling in a world-premiere adaptation by the creator of the two-time Tony Award-winning “The 39 Steps.” Five actors portray over 20 characters, exploring new facets of the classic tale. Re-imagined with a new physicality, this “highly theatrical, sometimes comic, ultimately moving adaptation” is sure to brighten up your holidays, according to critic Timothy Childs. See it Dec. 5-Dec. 30. Santa visits Dec. 9. 594-1104,

 “A Christmas Carol” gets a new sound—and a new title—this year at Clear Space. This musical incarnation of the Charles Dickens classic debuted off-Broadway in 1992 and has since played in theaters across the country. Composer and CSTC artistic director Doug Yetter is at the forefront once more as the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. Bring the whole family. See it through Dec. 16. 227-7303,

A Holiday Fave

Here’s a show we love: The Possum Point Players production of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas: The Musical,” based on the 1954 Paramount film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. This score features 17 Irving Berlin standards, including “Happy Holiday,” “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing,” “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” and, of course, “White Christmas.” Hear them during PPP’s show Dec. 7-8. The story is this: Veterans Bob Wallace (Kenney Workman of Milford) and Phil Davis (Don Megee of Georgetown) have a successful song-and-dance act after World War II. With romance in mind, the two follow a duo of beautiful singing sisters, Betty and Judy Haynes (Lorraine Steinhoff of Dover and Deni Robinson of Lewes) to their Christmas show at a Vermont lodge, which happens to be owned by Bob and Phil’s former Army commander, Maj. Gen. Thomas F. Waverly (Michael Williams of Georgetown), so they decide to put on a show. But you don’t need to go to Vermont. Just head to Georgetown. 856-4560,

Our Favorite Orphan

Leapin’ lizards! One of the most acclaimed musicals of the past 35 years will appear at the Smyrna Opera House for the holidays. It could only be “Annie.” Set in Depression-Era New York City, little orphan Annie charms everyone as she searches for a family. “I have always wanted the opportunity to play the role of Annie,” says actress Katie Loftus. “I am very excited to get to do so at one of my favorite theaters. We have a wonderful and talented cast and crew.” Winner of 7 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, “Annie” is based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie. “We have rounded up the best talent that Smyrna has to offer and have a production team with a combined 45 years of professional theater experience both here in the U.S and abroad,” says director Dan Sanchez. “Smyrna better watch out this holiday season, ’cause Annie is coming to town!” The cast includes Bob Castro as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, Kathy DeLong as Grace Farrell, Barbara Bigelow as Miss Hannigan, Christopher Bruce as Daniel “Rooster” Hannigan and, Laura Dunbar as Lily St. Regis/Star to Be. See it Dec. 14-16. 653-4236,

Sex, Sex, Sex

“If ‘Anything to Declare?’ has one redeeming quality, it’s laughter,” says director Steve Tague.  “The play is all about sex, but sex in a world of old-fashioned innocence where young women remain chaste until their wedding night and husbands would do anything—including a visit to a working girl—to prove how much they love their wives.” “Anything to Declare?” presented by UD’s Resident Ensemble Players, is running now at The Thompson Theatre. Billed as a question—wacky farce or camel drama?—the hilarious play tells the tale of Robert, who, after marrying into the du Pont family, returns from his honeymoon in desperation. “In a French farce, of course, the innocence is wrapped in a wacky story of misplaced pants, mistaken identities, and a whirlwind of zany characters running in and out of lots of doors,” Tague says. “Anything to Declare?” has it all. Unable to fulfill his husbandly duties, Robert must deal with two grandchild-demanding in-laws, a jilted fiancée, a camel dealer, and one very popular and artistic courtesan. This contemporary translation of Maurice Hennequin and Pierre Veber’s classic play is guaranteed to keep you in stitches. Did we mention it happens in Paris in 1912? See it through Dec. 9. 831-2204,

Gone Batty

Who knows what you’re in for with “Bat Boy: The Musical.” Described as a dark musical comedy, the story is inspired by the tabloid tale of a creature half man and half boy discovered in a cave in West Virginia. One thing is for sure: The play starts the City Theater Company’s season in keeping with its bent for edgy work. With the bat boy and other characters swinging from the ceiling, the audience will get more than up close and personal. See it at the Black Box at OperaDelaware in Wilmington through Dec. 15. 220-8285,


A holiday tradition for Thursday Noontime Concerts and downtown Wilmington, see the popular Cartoon Christmas Trio play music from classic Christmas cartoons, especially the music of Vince Guaraldi, the composer of the “Peanuts” soundtracks. The trio has performed at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, NBC’s “The 10! Show,” National Public Radio, The Brandywine River Museum and other places. Head to First & Central Presbyterian Church on Dec. 6.

E. Shawn Qaissaunee is a multi-instrumentalist and composer, a Berklee College of Music alumnus who has studied guitar and composition with Pat Martino, Wolfgang Muthspiel and other renowned musicians. Also known as Q, Qaissaunee has performed nationally and abroad for over 20 years and has recorded original compositions and arrangements. In demand as a sideman, he has performed with Benny Golson, David Bromberg, Scott Ambush of Spyro Gyra and has opened for McCoy Tyner, Al Green and Joss Stone. See him play Dec. 7 as part of the Clifford Brown Year Round jazz series at Christina Cultural Arts Center. 652-0101,

Art for Arden’s Sake

You know Arden—that whacky place where all the artists live. See how they work, during the fourth annual Ardens Artists Studio Tour. It begins with a reception Dec. 7, as part of Wilmington’s Art on the Town, then continues through the weekend. Since its founding in 1900 by sculptor Frank Stephens and architect William Price, Arden has been a haven for visual artists, crafts people, musicians and actors. The three Ardens—Arden, Ardentown and Ardencroft—are Single Tax and Arts and Crafts communities. The Single Tax is an economic theory proposed by Henry George, an economist and philosopher who believed that a land value tax was the most fair and equitable tax. The Ardens also were founded on the ideals of William Morris, as an Arts and Crafts community, a reaction against the industrial revolution that valued handcrafted goods and individualistic design. The Arden Craft Shop Museum still supports this idea. It hosts Afternoon with the Artist one Sunday every month, when a local artist displays his or her work. The studio Tour is different. It’s your opportunity to meet and see the artists where they work. Twenty artists are part of this year’s tour, which continues through the weekend, and a group show will be mounted at the Buzz Ware Village Center on Friday night. Lots of works will be for sale. “There is a resurgence of the visual arts in Arden as we artists become more aware of each other,” says longtime Arden artist David Burslem. “The history of Arden as an artist colony is perhaps the reason that our residents and artists alike have been drawn here to live and work. It’s as if the town itself and all of its creative activities have bred a mystical place in which to nurture creativity. Just as our own art that we produce could probably be made anywhere, it’s the acceptance and interest of what we do by the community at large and the contacts that we have with our own community of artists which really allows us to more freely be creative in our own private utopia.” Burslem cites local artists Aurelius Renzetti, Bunni Hurlong, and Ash and Mary Burslem as influences. “When I moved to Arden 19 years ago from Center City Philadelphia I wondered if I would fit in,” says Linda Celestian. Her new surroundings influenced a return to nature-themed work. She also found herself regularly dropping in on friends in their studios, which never happened in the city.  “I love working in the village and being surrounded by so many artists and talented people. I walk into my studio and immediately get lost and totally absorbed in designing and making my jewelry,” says Joy Davis. For a full list of participating artists, scroll down.

Alan Burslem, ceramics

David Burslem, sculptural paintings

Kim Brainard Celis, watercolor paintings

Linda Celestian, paintings and fiber sculptures

Joy Davis, art-to-wear jewelry

Joe del Tufo, photography

Pamela Dennis, fiber arts

Tom Dulin, oil paintings

Phil Fisher, sculpture and art collection

Dolores Pye Josey, ceramics andpPaintings

Dick Lebeis, SilverWear jewelry

Rhys McClure, paintings and drawings

Russ McKinney, copper embossings

Ashley Messatzzia, photography

Eleanore Morrow, paintings and silk scarves

Mary Mosaic, jewelry and clothing

Erica Orr, ink and watercolor

Jeanne Orr, paintings

Marge Roberts, paintings

Jen Saemann, acrylic and watercolor paintings

Dotty Verne, paintings

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