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Christmas is history A holiday tour of the Mueller House
By: JANET SCOUTEN Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
Every Second Friday of each month, downtown Lititz keeps its lights on a little later than usual, welcoming residents and tourists alike to enjoy the charms of this historic town.
This month, downtown visitors had the unique opportunity to experience Lititz history through the flicker of candlelight during a complimentary Christmas tour of the 1792 Johannes Mueller House. As luminaries lined the sidewalks leading the way to the historical property at 137 E. Main St., at least 300 people came through the museum during the Dec. 14 event.
As Cory Van Brookhoven, program coordinator and president-elect of the historical foundation, explained, "This Candlelight Tour is our gift to the community."
With costumed tour guides on hand to tell stories, explain history and answer questions about life in this Moravian village hundreds of years ago, the candlelight created a sense of time travel as visitors stepped into the former home of Johannes Mueller and his family.
Through the warm glow of the beeswax candles, the simplicity of days gone by was re-created in the Mueller’s parlor, where guide Bob Good described Moravian Christmas traditions. Explaining that Lititz residents at the time viewed themselves as "in this world, but not of this world," Good helped set the scene for a traditional Moravian celebration.
"Christmas gifts included things like hand-carved wooden animals that were passed from generation to generation," he said. "Families would also create wooden Christmas pyramids and decorate them simply with candles, Bible verses and candy."
The house tour included access to all first-floor rooms of the Mueller House, including the parents’ bedroom, which features a bed frame from the era. Tour guide Donna Olah pulled back the linen sheets and hand-woven coverlet to reveal a straw-filled mattress supported by ropes that were pulled taut to provide a well-sprung bed, a possible origin of the familiar phrase "sleep tight."
Visitors also had the opportunity to visit Johannes Mueller’s spinning room, where this "dyer of cloth" worked to create his wares. The walls hung with assorted herbs and plants that were used to create dye colors, the centerpiece of the room was an historic spinning wheel. As the tour guide described the process of how flax plants were transformed into linen, she explained how children would sing "Pop Goes the Weasel" as they spun the skeins of yarn through 32 rotations that perfectly matched the tune of this still-popular song.
Sharing stories from this important time period to new generations of visitors, Van Brookhoven said, "We want the public to know how much of a historical gem the Mueller House is. We also want the public to know that as a non-profit entity, our mission statement is to collect, interpret and preserve both Lititz and Warwick Township history."
As guide Marsha Campbell explained, "We have this lovely treasure here in Lititz."
After the complimentary tour, visitors were welcomed into the Lititz Museum and Gift Shop for refreshments. With the Linden Hall Women’s Choir singing Christmas carols on the museum’s front porch, the festive spirit extended outdoors as people walked past candlelit windows on an unseasonably temperate evening.
The second year of the Candlelight Tour, the idea started in 2011 through the Historical Foundation’s Outreach Committee as a way to connect with the community. Of the 300 people who visited this year, about two-thirds were Lititz residents, while the other third were county residents.
"I want to especially thank board member Amy Rhoads, along with the entire Outreach Committee for helping to plan and organize this event," said Van Brookhoven. "A very special thanks to Gladys Crowl, who talked to guests in our parlor. Also thanks to James Nuss who went up and down the streets of Lititz as our town crier that night."
Normally closed during the winter months, the regular season of operation for the Johannes Mueller House runs from Memorial Day through the last Saturday in October. The Lititz Museum and gift shop, however, remain open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Friday and Saturday in November and December until the Saturday before Christmas.
The entire facility closes for the season the weekend before Christmas.
For information on the Lititz Historical Society, visit their website at lititzhistoricalfoundation.com, call them at (717) 627-4636, or connect with them through Facebook or Twitter.
To become a member of the historical society, download an application from the foundation’s website.
"The benefits of membership include a quarterly six-page newsletter filled with historical content; a 10 percent discount in our gift shop; unlimited admission to the Mueller House; and goes to help and maintain our Mary Oehme Gardens," said Van Brookhoven. "Best of all, it helps preserve Lititz history." More MUELLER HOUSE, page A4