The holidays aren't what they used to be. Unless, of course, you celebrate them at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.
Each December the museum, which consists of more than five dozen buildings, most of which date from the 19th century, offers old-fashioned activities, crafts, food and, mostly, atmosphere to help bring back memories of bygone holidays. The museum is spread over 600 acres, which includes 175 acres of nature trails.
The village draws most of its visitors in the summer, because once you're there you'll spend hours walking from building to building, like the one where George Eastman grew up, and an eight-sided house, and a boot maker's shop. But for three weekends prior to Christmas, the village invites visitors to experience a Christmas as it was observed a century and a half ago.
A Scrooge would complain that that's not how it really was back then. He would ask, where's all the horse manure that would have been on the streets, and how about the pigs and dogs and chickens running free, and that outhouse that's behind one of the homes, well, back then you really had to use it.
But most of us aren't Scrooges, and even if we recognize a Hallmark card aura about the place, it's fun. It provides not only memories of a time that are how we wanted it to be, but also of how we would like it to be now.
Unlike, say, Colonial Williamsburg, Genesee Country Village is not so much restored as it is re-created. Almost all of the buildings at the museum were moved there from elsewhere in the Genesee Country region, which makes up most of Western New York.
The buildings that were once homes are filled with antique furnishings. The businesses, including a blacksmith shop, brewery, wheelwright shop and store, contain the tools and goods you would have found in such places in the mid-19th century.
Most of the buildings have folks dressed up in period costumes who explain the history or the structure and the activities that went on there.
Among the things you won't see during this year's holiday season, unfortunately, is the museum's famed Wehle Gallery of Sporting art, which includes work by Frederic Remington, John James Audubon and other famous artists. It is closed for the season. However, a sculpture garden outside can be visited. It includes several strutting turkeys and two bears. A museum employee said the bears told him to "send more tourists, the last group was delicious."
Tours of the village will be given on the first three weekends in December. The tours last about an hour and a half and begin every 15 minutes, on Fridays from 5 to 8:30 p.m., on Saturdays from 1:30 to 7:45 p.m., and on Sundays from 1:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Cost is $18 for members and $22 for nonmembers; $12 and $15 for youths ages 4 to 16. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 585-538-6822, ext. 218. (Reservations cannot be made online.)
For an additional $19 ($14 for youths), you can partake of a Yuletide Supper Buffet, complete with desserts.
The tours include visiting many of the dozens of buildings in the village, where guests will be greeted by costumed docents. The experience includes singing holiday songs, listening to instrumental music, looking at the old-time decorations on the homes and hearing the tour-guide explain the origins of Christmas traditions.
The museum gift shop will be open on tour dates from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The shop sells decorations, ornaments, books, treats, various crafts and pottery. It's possible to visit the shop without going on one of the tours.
> Getting ready
Those who want to see how folks 150 years ago got ready for Yuletide might consider attending the museum's first-ever "Preparing for the Holidays the 19th Century Way." It is a one-day event, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 per person, regardless of age or membership.
Visitors to the event can try their hand at various crafts for $4 each or $15 for all five available crafts, which are making cranberry/nut garlands and orange baskets, crafting clove balls, folding paper stars and fashioning Christmas potpourri.
The village also will have food and beer tastings on Saturday. The beer is 1803 Fat Ox ale, brewed at the village's own brewery. The visit includes a tour of the brewery, a demonstration of sausage cooking, tasting of old-fashioned chocolate (heritage chocolate made by the Mars company), soapmaking, storytelling, spinning and, weather permitting, watching a team of oxen -- Buck and Dan. Strolling through the village will also be permitted, although many of the buildings will be closed on Preparing day. There will also be a pig roast.
The gift shop will have an After-Thanksgiving Sale on Preparing day; all pottery and many other items will be marked down 20 percent.
> If you go
To get to Genesee Country Village and Museum, take Thruway exit 47 to Route 19 south to Le Roy; turn left on Route 5, go east to Caledonia, turn left (north) on Route 36 to Mumford and follow signs to GCV&M. The museum is about a mile north of Mumford, on the left. Parking is free.