Belsnickel, a Pennslyvania Dutch stand-in for St. Nick, will be part of a holiday exhibition at Woodmere.

Belsnickel, a Pennslyvania Dutch stand-in for St. Nick, will be part of a holiday exhibition at Woodmere.

by William R. Valerio, Ph.D. Patricia Van Burgh Allison Director and CEO, Woodmere Art Museum

It’s hard to believe, but this is my fourth holiday season as Woodmere’s director and CEO, and this year I’m feeling a special magic and renewed sense of partnership in Chestnut Hill. If you go to our community website, chestnuthillpa.com, the array of holiday offerings and collaborations is staggering — with our schools, churches, shops, restaurants and institutions coming together in new, creative ways to make the holidays a continuous season of joy, celebration and sharing.

From caroling and holiday shopping on Stag and Doe nights to glass blowing on Germantown Avenue to wreath making on the Wissahickon, from the Garden Railway at the Arboretum to the Chestnut Hill Hospital’s toy drive, Chestnut Hill is the place to be — and to be enchanted — for the holidays. Get ready, because there is free parking on weekends and Wednesday evenings (starting on November 23) and elves are going to be giving out prizes.

Everyone is welcome to Woodmere’s open-house inauguration of the holiday season at the Circle of Trees and Festival of Lights celebration on Saturday, November 23, at 5:30 p.m. While we celebrate outside and sing along with the Mummers Chorus and students from Norwood-Fontbonne Academy, we will open a wonderland exhibition for the delight of the entire family: A Christmas Past of the Pennsylvania German Tradition.

We will be showing photographs from the Chestnut Hill Historical Society as well as children’s toys and holiday decorations from the collection of the Germantown Historical Society. We will feature period ornaments, toy trains, hand-carved Noah’s Arc sets, an amazing 7-foot-wide dollhouse, and a special icon of local history: Belsnickel. Crafted, sewn and decorated in the early 19th century by a local German American family in our area, Belsnickel resembles Santa in some ways, and not in others. His roots are deep. During the Protestant Reformation in Northern Europe, people turned away from the veneration of saints, and so to maintain the tradition of St. Nick’s magical visit for the naughty and nice, Belsnickel was invented. He migrated to Pennsylvania with German families.

Belsnickel and these other delights will anchor Woodmere’s holiday programs and warm your spirits throughout the season. Join us for the Holiday House Tour on December 7, 1-4 p.m. Children who enjoy arts and craft activities are invited to our family workshops to make their own wrapping paper, animal masks, Victorian cards, toys and ornaments.

On Tuesday evenings, December 10 and 17, we are offering the holiday films, The Shop Around The Corner and White Christmas, with special shorts featuring Popeye and Laurel and Hardy. Then on December 20, celebrate The Holidays with Duke and Ella, the culmination of Woodmere’s Friday Night Jazz series this season. Finally, on Sunday, December 22, the Museum will host Christmas Caroling with the Main Line Opera Company. Please also visit our museum store for gifts for the entire family.

For a complete listing of holiday events with dates and times, visit woodmereartmuseum.org or chestnuthillpa.com, or stop by any time. Happy Holidays.

Woodmere Art Museum is located at 9201 Germantown Ave. For more information, call 215-247-0476 or visit woodmereartmuseum.org.