Belsnickel, a toy figure of a German forerunner of Santa Claus (from the Germantown Historical Society), is included in a holiday exhibition at Woodmere Art Museum. See story next page.

Belsnickel, a toy figure of a German forerunner of Santa Claus (from the Germantown Historical Society), is included in a holiday exhibition at Woodmere Art Museum.

by Jim Weaver

Many of our Christmas traditions come from Germany — the Christmas tree, Santa Claus, and many of our favorite carols.

When Daniel Pastorius led the very first group of German settlers to the “new world” in 1683 it was to Pennsylvania, where he founded Germantown. It’s not surprising that artifacts (including children’s toys and holiday decorations) of the Germantown Historical Society are of German heritage.

Chestnut Hill’s Woodmere Art Museum will exhibit a number of these toys in its Founders Gallery, which has just opened and will continue through January 5.

The exhibit, “A Christmas Past in the Pennsylvania German Tradition” is presented with the Germantown Historical Society, according to Emma Hitchcock, Collections Manager at Woodmere.

“Highlights will include a 19th century sculpture of Belsnickel, the predecessor of our modern Santa Claus, who often created as much fright as delight because he knew which children had been naughty and which had been nice,” she explained.

“Our holiday tree will be decorated according to the style of the time with historic and period-inspired ornaments. The gallery will be filled with toy trains, wooden toys, puzzles, dolls, a doll house, and other wonderful objects that transport visitors back into a traditional Christmas of Philadelphia,” Hitchcock continued.

Concurrent with this exhibit is another winter time treat entitled “Chestnut Hill Past: Photographs from the Chestnut Hill Historical Society.”

“Visitors to Woodmere will be given a glimpse of winter on the Hill in years gone by. Ice-skating, sledding, winter walks on the Wissahickon, exchanging gifts, and family time confirm that the special magic of the holidays was as important in the distant past as it is today,” said Hitchcock.

Photographs show Chestnut Hill’s historic landmarks covered in snow and the Wissahickon transformed by winter. One photo of Woodmere before the museum addition was built has painted snowflakes.

“Also note the statue of a child holding an umbrella,” she added.

The museum, at Germantown Avenue and Bells Mill Road, is open Tuesday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 8:45 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

For more information, call 215-247-0476 or visit woodmereartmuseum.org.

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