The Magic of Christmas Past

 by Anne Fairchild, Eastern Region Program Manager for the Indiana State Museum

It’s not really a secret that this time of year is special for me. Not only is it the sweet smell of cider and the crisp cool air, but my memories from childhood of jumping in large colorful piles of leaves, and the realization that the holidays are upon us. It’s time for sugar cookies, spiced eggnog, time to primp, polish, and prepare to dazzle. The Lanier Mansion has to be absolutely beautiful because we are a very large part of a longstanding holiday tradition in this community.

That’s right. It’s time for the annual Night Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes. Thousands of people descend upon Madison from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana for this favorite holiday tradition. Each year, the Lanier Mansion is among the selected outstanding historic private homes and museums to open their door and be the face of Christmas Cheer in Madison. It is very fulfilling to see families returning year after year to soak in the fine architectural details and beautiful décor with continued amazement and awe. Candlelight Tour of Homes is happening Nov. 26, 27, Dec. 3 and 4.

For the last four years, the Lanier Mansion has taken its holiday decorating in an exciting new direction. Instead of offering the same old over-the-top fare you see everywhere, the Lanier Mansion is offering a truly authentic glimpse of an early Victorian Christmas. We are proud of the fact that our holiday décor is much more in keeping with the kind of holiday that Charles Dickens would have witnessed. We have on display some of the very same toys that children would have found under their Christmas tree in 1850.

The best part of this time of year is that it is a time where the staff here can get their batteries re-charged, so to speak. We can talk to people who enjoy the subtle changes we’ve made through the year, and truly appreciate the grandeur of this old home. It is delightful to see so many people enjoying the fruits of our labor. It fills us with the Christmas Spirit!

In addition we have a Victorian Christmas experience for younger children as well. Spirit of Christmas Past is Dec. 11 from 2 to 4 p.m. and will include a Victorian Santa, storytelling, light refreshments and a craft. For more information go to