No matter your heritage, think about adding the Newark Museum to your family’s holiday traditions. The museum’s 19th century Ballantine House is decorated for the holidays and come Dec. 27 through Dec. 30, the museum offers “Holiday Fun Days,” a gift box of afternoon family programs.
“It’s joyous, the whole museum comes to life for everyone of all ages—you can feel the excitement in the air,” said the Newark Museum’s Senior Manager for Adult Learning and Special Programs Linda Gates Nettleton.”The Ballantine House is especially beautiful this time of year.”
This year’s “Holiday Fun Days” of live music, theater, hands on art and science activities and planetarium shows are based on, “Miracles Around the World.”
Highlights include the traditional “Yuletide Carolers,” a quartet of singers on Tuesday, Dec. 27 at 2 p.m. Dressed as if they just stepped out of the Dickens carol –or maybe the Victorian era Ballantine House—they will perform carols from all over the world.
On Wednesday, Dec. 28th, the “Pushcart Players”, a 38-year-old national and international touring theater company based in Verona, will dramatize holiday tales from various cultures. The players, who have performed at the White House, will present “A Season of Miracles,” which is set to music. “There aren’t many places where you can see wonderful, live theater for the price of a suggested museum admission,” Nettleton said.
There aren’t many museums with a planetarium, either. From Dec. 27 to Dec. 31, the planetarium will have four shows each day. Show times are 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Check out the website for descriptions of the shows. Those 6 years and older and can look up at the winter constellations and learn about different ways to celebrate the winter solstice. The Planetarium will be closed on Dec. 25 & 26 and January 1.
The is a three-story, 19th century mansion that originally had 27 rooms. It is entered through the museum and was built in 1885 for a wealthy family whose brewery was in Newark’s Ironbound section. The main first floor rooms and many of the second-story bedrooms are beautifully restored and festooned for the holidays with garlands of holly and evergreens, pots of poinsettias and ribbon streamers. There’s an old-fashioned Christmas tree with Victorian ornaments, strung with popcorn and bedecked with candles.
“The surprise about Christmas in 1891 is that it looks pretty much like Christmas today does – minus the electric lights,” said Ulysses Grant Dietz, the museum’s senior curator and curator of decorative arts.
“People always associate red and green with Christmas, but that wasn’t always the case,” said Maplewood’s Dietz. “That Christmas color scheme arose from the fact that holly, which became associated with Christmas festivities in the 19th century, is one of the rare plants that has fruit in the winter. The bright red berries and shiny green leaves, against a background of white snow, gave us the holiday color scheme we all expect today.”
While you’re there, slip into one of the Ballantine House’s treasures, the second floor Lore Ross Jewelry Gallery, one of only four permanent museum exhibits in the United States that highlights jewelry collections.
From a rare 18th century gold pocket watch, to a menagerie of insect themed brooches, an Art Deco diamond and platinum dazzler and through to a 2009 “Red Ruffle” necklace in painted polymer clay, the collection beguiles. “The Lore Ross Jewelry Gallery at the Newark Museum is literally a jewel-box,” Dietz said. “One of the great rarities is a solid gold purse in the Egyptian style, made in one of Newark’s many jewelry factories in the early 1900s. It’s the only one known.”
The Newark Museum, 49 Washington St., is located near the Washington Park NJ Transit Light Rail station; on-site parking is also available. The museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. and Tuesday through Sundays during Holiday Fun Days. Admission is free for city residents and museum members; for all others the suggested admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children, students and senior citizens. For more information click here.