Holidays on the Prairie
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Courtesy of Conner Prairie
Have you ever wondered what the holidays were like for the early settlers and our ancestors?
If you have never experienced Conner Prairie during the holiday season, this is the perfect year to immerse yourself along with family and friends in an interactive experience that only the folks at Conner Prairie know how to create.
The family-friendly walking tour, Conner Prairie by Candlelight, takes you back to 1836 in Prairietown where it’s the night before Christmas. Guests will meet a variety of characters in their homes and learn how settlers to Indiana’s frontier celebrated the holidays and their own family traditions. Head over to Dr. Campbell’s home for a Christmas Ball and then join the rowdies for songs and stories around the bonfire.
Susana Suarez, vice president and chief marketing officer at Conner Prairie, shared some of what people can expect to experience throughout the holiday season at Conner Prairie.
“We’ve been doing this for over 35 years, “ Suarez said. “This is a magical time at Conner Prairie – it’s very special. Guests can cozy up to a fire and slow things down. They’re able to take inventory and have an awareness of what Christmas is really about – spending time with family and friends. That’s what they did in 1836. They really celebrated each other and community. They celebrated harvest and bounty and things that we take for granted today. Today, we can go shopping for our turkeys. Back then, they had to catch them.”
Suarez explained that each of the Prairietown families will share their stories about coming from other countries and surviving winters in the cabins that they built with only candlelight to light their way and fires to keep them warm in addition to how they celebrated the holidays based on their various backgrounds and traditions.
“What Candlelight has done for years and continues to do is allow you to enter into that world,” she said. “You literally follow the path by candlelight into Prairietown into each of the homes who are celebrating in their own particular way. There were many traditions followed in 1836. Candlelight immerses people into the experience and allows them to take a step back in time to see firsthand what life and holiday celebrations were like at that time.”
What is different this year? Suarez explained that guests will purchase an open ticket, meaning the tickets are no longer time-stamped to allow ticketholders the ability to experience the environment at their own pace.
“In the past, it was a tour in which you were given a time-stamped ticket,” Suarez said. “Instead of having a timed entry, you can spend as much time as you wish in each home or singing and dancing with the rowdies by the fire enjoying hot beverages [hot toddies for the adults]. It is a much more immersive experience at your own pace.”
The Welcome Center is also open during the Candlelight program and offers guests an opportunity to experience Mrs. Claus and storytelling. Guests can also check out the North Pole workshop where they can make old-fashioned toys. Be sure to check out the display of gingerbread houses from the recent competition that received over 60 entries this season!
Don’t miss Holiday Cheers, a festive experience unlike any other. Start your evening with tasty craft brews and delicious wines, then travel back in time to 1836 to sample historic beverages and food in Prairietown.
Enjoy these activities:
- Participate in historical sausage-making demonstrations
- Visit Doctor Campbell’s soiree
- Sample a historic German Glühwein
- Explore multicultural 19th-century holiday traditions
- Scarlet Lane Brewing Company
- Taxman Brewing Company
- McClure’s Orchard
- Black Acre Brewing Company
- Hard Truth Distilling Company
- Carroll Wine and Spirits
- Sunrise Bakery
- Tinker Coffee Co.
All tickets include entry into Conner Prairie; hors d’oeuvres; tastings from all brewers, wineries and distilleries; and a commemorative glass.
Holiday Cheers is presented by Conner Prairie’s young professionals group, the Horizon Council.
There is a lot to experience at the Prairie throughout the entire winter season. For a complete list of programs, times and ticket information, visit connerprairie.org.