Once again, the turkeys have been cooked, the sweet potatoes and stuffing have been passed around the dinner table, everyone states that they are far too full for dessert yet takes a second helping of apple or pumpkin pie, and another Thanksgiving is over. With that, holiday music is played in every store you enter, a frenzy of Christmas sales begins, and it’s hard not to feel that the holiday that always has been my favorite has become more and more commercialized. This year I wanted to begin the Christmas season with less of an emphasis on buying things, and instead, to try to recapture the magic of the holidays that I remember from my childhood. Since I was home in New Jersey for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, on Friday afternoon my Mom and I got into my car and headed toward one of the more unique museums near Philadelphia: Winterthur.

Located in Wilmington, Delaware, the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library is one of the most important museums of American cultural artifacts in the nation. Originally the estate was a twelve-room home for Henry Francis du Pont, a renowned cattle breeder and collector of American antiques and furniture. The du Pont Family is one of the wealthiest in the nation, making its fortune through manufacturing gun powder beginning in the 19th century. Henry used his vast wealth to expand his childhood home into a 175-room museum which was opened to the public sixty years ago. Visitors to the museum can spend the day viewing countless American antiques, strolling the ample nature paths through the gardens, and exploring a fairy garden with their children. Mr. du Pont loved decorating his estate during the holidays and so the museum continues this tradition to this day, transforming itself a celebration of the season. I had heard about this “Yuletide” event previously, so instead of shopping at a mall, my Mom and I headed to explore this beautiful site.

Map of Pennsylvania and Delaware, with a pin in the location of Winterthur.
Today’s destination: Winterthur, located about thirty miles southwest of Philadelphia, in Delaware.
View of the entrance to the museum, with the Winterthur sign by the driveway.
Arrived! A long holiday weekend meant mercifully little traffic on the way.
View of the long winding road to the Visitor's Center, taken from behind the wheel of a car.
This long road leads to the Visitor Center. During the spring and summer, and view is simply gorgeous.
Winterthur House, hidden behind the trees.
The Winterthur Museum is now a 175-room building.
Interior of the gift shop. A table in the foreground has items for sale. A Christmas tree is in the background.
Perhaps one of the most elegant gift shops I have ever visited. Every room in the store was similarly decorated.
Entrance to museum and galleries.
Guests enter for tours in this modern building that sits between the Museum and the Galleries.
Town square, with foliage from different buildings in the northeastern United States.
The town square was originally a racquetball court that Henry du Pont converted to give you a sense of being outside. The facade of four different buildings from the northeastern United States form the four walls of the room.
A small Christmas tree on a table is decorated with Christmas cookies.
Drawing inspiration from a 19th century French painting (on the chair), this room has a small Christmas tree decorated with Christmas cookies.
Leg lamp on a table by the window. Presents are on the floor.
I’m glad to see the museum curators have a sense of fun. Love the reference to one of my favorite holiday movies of all time… “It’s a major award!”
Two Christmas trees on tabletops.
These Christmas trees are inspired by the trees decorated by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of the United Kingdom.
Chinese Room, decorated with a large Christmas tree and gift baskets.
The “Chinese Room”, so named for the Chinese wallpaper (from 1775) that adorns the walls. The du Ponts would place their friends’ Christmas gifts in baskets, and leave their names on each basket beside various chairs and sofas in the room. This way, their guests would know where to sit (and which presents to open).
Spiral staircase. A Christmas tree is on the first floor
The famous spiral staircase, a later addition to the home.
Christmas tree decorated with dried flowers.
The centerpiece of the exhibition: a Christmas tree decorated with dried flowers.
In the foreground, poinsettias. A statue of a man is in the background.
The tree was ringed by more poinsettias than I could count.
Christmas tree to the left of a stage. Two rows of wooden chairs are for the audience.
This small theater was used to entertain children of the du Pont family and the workers of the estate on Christmas Eve. The shows would feature singing, dancing, magicians, and plays.
Figurines of Santa Claus and Grandfather Frost. Wallpaper featuring naval sailing ships are on the walls in the background.
This room has figurines of Santa Claus (red robes) and Grandfather Frost (white or silver robes). The wallpaper in the background is dated to no later than 1860.
Large dining room with seats for twelve.
The dining room of the du Pont family. Fun fact… in high society of the time, it was considered impolite to talk to the person across from you. You were only permitted to speak to the person on your immediately left or right. Anything else was considered rude.
Exhibition of American furniture in the Galleries.
After the Yuletide exhibit, my Mom and I stopped by the galleries and checked out some of the displays of American antiques.
A boy's coat and a woman's gown and petticoat, both from the 18th century.
Fashions do change quite a bit! On the left is a boy’s coat, and on the right is a woman’s gown and petticoat, both from 18th century America.
Miniature model of a sitting room.
Does this sitting room seem a little odd?
Dollhouse of the original du Pont mansion.
It’s because the sitting room is part of a dollhouse reproduction of the original du Pont mansion.
2012 Honda Accord in an empty parking lot.
As we were walking back to the car, my Mom pointed at my Accord and said, “Look at that! Take that shot! It’s your car photo for the trip!” Have I mentioned my Mom is one of the most enthusiastic readers of this blog?

Winterthur’s Yuletide exhibition made for a wonderful trip on a shopping-free Black Friday with my mom. Winterthur is open Monday through Sunday from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm, and only closes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Yuletide Tour is $22 for adults, $20 for students and seniors, children ages 2 – 11 enter for $5, and children under 2 are free. The Yuletide exhibit runs from now through January 8th, 2018. The museum is a wonderful way to welcome in the Christmas season, and is definitely worth the stop if you are in the area. Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.

9 thoughts on “Yuletide.

  1. I love your mom for remembering to get a picture of the Accord before you left! What a neat, festive place. I’d like to move in for a few weeks. I don’t see many people in the area – was it very busy?


  2. Visiting Winterthur was one of the most pleasant days I have ever spent. Truly beautiful estate and grounds. And you’re right about the elegant gift shop.

    Liked by 1 person

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