The celebration of Yuletide is returning to Historic Rock Ford for 2021 on December 26 and 27. After a 2020 hiatus due to Covid issues and with an eye to lingering Covid concerns, Yuletide 2021, “Voices of Yuletide Past,” will be offered with several new and creative twists. Rather than following the “Holiday Open House” model of past Yuletides at Historic Rock Ford dominated by large numbers of visitors, this year’s guests may anticipate a more intimate experience as they arrive at the General Edward Hand Mansion on the evening of January 6, 1795—"Twelfth Night.” As the residents of the house prepare for a Yuletide Ball, the presence of Hand family members, their friends and servants will be felt, but they will not be seen. As groups of guests are escorted from room to candle-lit and holly-bedecked room, they will see the sights and hear the sometimes-frenetic sounds of a household about to welcome many guests to the first Yuletide Ball to be held in the new mansion. They will also be greeted by the voices of Katherine Hand, Edward Hand, Jasper Yeates, Sarah Yeates, Dorothy Hand, young Jasper and Edward Hand as well as by that of a female servant desperately trying to get the younger children ready for bed amid all of the excitement.
Historic Rock Ford’s 2021 celebration of Yuletide represents a collaborative effort with both the Theater of the Seventh Sister—whose actors will offer dramatic recorded readings of character scripts written by Rock Ford Board Member Pamela Stoner and Executive Director Sam Slaymaker—and with Dr. Barry Atticks, Associate Professor of Music Business Technology at Millersville University. Dr. Atticks will be providing the recording studio for use by the actors while his students will be creating and editing the voices and sound effects related to the imminent Twelfth Night Ball as well as strategically positioning the necessary sound equipment in the mansion. The Millersville students will receive academic credit for their work and expertise dedicated to this project. This year’s Yuletide will thus provide a unique blending of the eighteenth and the twenty-first centuries in the realms of history, theater and technology.
At the turn of the eighteenth century, many Lancaster families of English extraction like the Hands and the Yeates celebrated the Old English traditions of Yuletide which consisted of the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” The period of Yuletide started on December 25 which was primarily a day of religious observance of the birth of Christ. However, shortly thereafter, celebrations in the form of dinners, card parties and balls including New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and culminating in the celebration of Twelfth Night, commemorating the magi’s adoration of the baby Jesus, on the evening of January 6. In contrast to today, Christmas Day was only the beginning of Yuletide, not its primary focus. Gifts, when given at all, tended to be little more than trinkets and tokens. Yuletide was about family, friends and fun, not about the giving and receiving of gifts.
In addition to the mansion tour, guests will be able to join in Christmas Carols as they gather around a fire pit outside of the mansion and conclude with a visit to the Snyder Gallery where they will be able to enjoy the holiday fiddle music of Tom Knapp of the Celtic band “Fire in the Glen” in the lobby. They will then enter the Snyder Gallery to explore for clues and information relating to Yuletides past. Children will be invited to participate in an activity based upon the familiar eighteenth-century rhyme “Hickory, Dickory, Dock” and other themed activities.
Because of Covid precautions, guests, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear face coverings while inside the mansion and the Gallery, and groups will be limited to 10 people each both as a Covid precaution and to provide them with a more intimate experience during their visit. Tickets may be purchased online at rockford.yapsody.com at the cost of $20 per adult, $15 for youth ages 6-17 and free for children 5 and younger. Timed entry tours of the mansion will be held on the half hour with the first at 4:00 pm and the last at 7:30 pm. Reservations are required. Proceeds will benefit educational programs at Historic Rock Ford.