Hiwan Homestead to capture holiday on the long-ago silver screen

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By Stephen Knapp

Come Friday evening, folks craving a hot cup of tradition with their Christmas cheer will mosey into downtown Evergreen for the Holiday Walk.

Those preferring their seasonal gaiety without traffic hassles will park at one of Evergreen’s several designated shuttle stops and, so, arrive on Main Street in a joyful frame of mind.

And those in whom the Spirit of Christmas Past burns brightest will catch that shuttle at the Hiwan Homestead Museum on Meadow Drive and, while they’re at it, take advantage of the mountain area’s most authentic Olde Time-y Christmas experience.

Outside, guests can sip hot cider, munch open-fire-roasted chestnuts, and savor the old log landmark’s magical mood. Inside, a virtual Santa’s village of snowmen will lend a properly festive flavor to the homestead’s elegant pioneer dcor, and creative little elfen-folk can pull off their mittens and turn their little hands to a variety of holiday crafts. Best of all, merry-makers young and old can grab a handful of fresh-popped corn and head upstairs to the comfortable sewing room, where Christmas Past will come alive in all its silent, black-and-white charm.

“We found a DVD of old Christmas movies put out by the Edison Co. back around 1900,” explains museum director John Steinle. “We’ll have it running all evening.”

It’s pleasing to imagine the 19-ought-somethings as a dreamy age when folks enjoyed a slower, more civilized pace of life. These little features should put that notion to rest.

“Think of the whole ‘Christmas Carol’ condensed into 10 minutes,” laughs Steinle. “It’s quite a hoot.”

Maybe, but “A Christmas Carol” can be pretty heavy fare at any speed. For a lighter interlude, be sure to catch “A Winter Straw Ride,” a 1906 comedy featuring two cartloads of young Victorian ladies, a pack of mischievous street urchins, a non-fatal wagon accident and seven minutes of snowball mayhem.

But the holidays are about more than laughter and good feelings. They’re also about black-hearted Grinches who dress up as St. Nick in order to burgle comfortable homes only to be captured by precocious tots intent on catching Santa Claus. At least, that’s Christmas as portrayed in “A Trap for Santa Claus,” a dramatic 16-minute holiday meditation directed by Hollywood proto-legend C.W. Griffith in 1909.

Still, there may be some who spend the entire Holiday Walk pining for their regular Friday night fix of “CSI: Miami” or “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” Take heart, crime junkies! In “The Adventure of the Wrong Santa Claus,” amateur sleuth Octavius visits cold justice on a nefarious thief masquerading as the Jolly Old Elf, and he does it in an efficient 14 minutes, which is about 45 minutes less time than it takes that sluggardly bumble David Caruso.

Altogether, the Homestead has nearly more than two hours of old-fashioned Christmas classics on tap, each one an enchanting glimpse of the curious yules of yore.

“People are going to love these,” Steinle says. “It’s good stuff.”