Glencairn Museum presents ‘Nativity Festival’ offering more than a month of events celebrating Christmas.

Exhibitions,tours, music, shopping, operational 1950s toy train

The grandeur of the holiday season will sparkle brighter than ever in Bryn Athyn this year when Glencairn Museum presents “Nativity Festival 2012” featuring a series of events through Jan. 6, including the venue’s 75th annual Christmas Sing concert, “Christmas in the Castle” tours, a “Ten Thousand Villages” shopping experience, “Glad Tidings,” an afternoon of activities for the whole family, and an Epiphany program.

The Festival embodies the spirit of the holiday season fostered at Glencairn when it was the home of the Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn family. The Romanesque-style castle at 1001 Cathedral Rd., built between 1928 and 1939, now is a museum of religious history and art.

“Glencairn has always done multiple events during the holiday season, but this is our most exciting year by far,” said Joralyn Echols, Glencairn’s outreach and public relations coordinator. “We’re open 38 days out of the 45 days between Nov. 23 and Jan. 6, and have something for everyone.”

Christmas in the Castle” guided tours, running through Jan. 6, take visitors on a 45-minute exploration of art works depicting the Nativity of Jesus Christ from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Stops include Glencairn’s Great Hall, Upper Hall, Tower, Chapel and Medieval Treasury. The tour also reveals how Christmas was celebrated when it was the Pitcairns’ private home from the 1940s to the 1970s. At the conclusion of the tour, visitors can view, at their own pace, the museum’s special exhibition, “Follow the Star: World Nativities,” being presented Nov. 23 through Jan. 6.

“A highlight of the ‘Christmas in the Castle’ tour for me is the red velvet gown Mildred Pitcairn wore for Christmas activities,” said Echols. “We’ve never displayed it before, so it’s really a treat for both Glencairn staff and visitors to see this year.”

Dec. 2, Glencairn will host “Glad Tidings,” a Christmas program showcasing its annual exhibition, “Follow the Star: World Nativities” that features dozens of crèches, revealing how Christians around the world have adapted the Nativity scene to reflect their own national, regional and local cultures. Notable among the new additions to the collection this year are three painted terracotta Nativities from Estremoz, Portugal – one each from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, representing a continuous cultural tradition. Artistic settings have been provided for all of the Nativities in the exhibition by Bryn Athyn resident Kathleen Glenn Pitcairn.

The “Glad Tidings” event includes live Christmas music, a family activity and a Christmas Quest of Nativity art in Glencairn. Holiday refreshments will be offered at the “Castle Café” and visitors can get some of their holiday shopping done at the museum’s Ten Thousand Villages sale and at Glencairn's gift shop.

The nonprofit Ten Thousand Villages, which helps craftspeople receive fair price for their products, offers handmade items from 38 countries, such as hand-loomed textiles, pottery, jewelry, baskets, musical instruments, cards, toys and nativities.

Decorating Glencairn’s Great Hall is a Christmas tree with vintage and antique hand blown glass ornaments; beneath the tree is a pre-World War II Christmas village and Nativity scene. Under the tree this year is an operating 1950s Lionel toy train donated by Louise Chardos of Hoboken, N.J. Her brothers, Jim, Steve and Hank, collected the train and accessories as boys, setting them up annually beneath the family’s Christmas tree. The trains have been reconditioned and are maintained by Doug Wolff, owner of Joe’s Train Station in Feasterville.

Another Festival highlight is the 75th “Christmas Sing” concert Dec. 18. “Even before the Pitcairn family lived in Glencairn, they opened the building’s still incomplete Great Hall in 1937 to the Bryn Athyn community for the first concert,” said Echols. “At that first concert, members of the Philadelphia Orchestra performed Christmas carols, something they will do again this year. Lachlan Pitcairn, son of Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn and now aged 90, will enjoy the concert from the front row.

The concert features soloists, audience participation, readings from the Christmas story, the Academy of the New Church Choral and Hand Bell choirs, and the “Glencairn Horns” comprising current and former members of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Horns will play a series of Christmas melodies and chorales, music that was collected and arranged in the 1920s by Anton Horner, former principal horn with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The Epiphany program Jan. 6, the date which traditionally is celebrated as the day the Wise Men visited the Holy Family, closes the Nativity Festival. Visitors will have one last opportunity to see the “Follow the Star” exhibition, tour Glencairn, and enjoy music, a family activity and light refreshments.

Glencairn Museum is part of the Bryn Athyn Historic District, a National Historic Landmark since 2008.

Times and costs of Glencairn’s “Nativity Festival” events are:

“Follow the Star: World Nativities” Exhibition

Friday, Nov. 23- Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013

General Hours: Mondays through Saturdays 12 to 4:30 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 2, 1-5 p.m. during Glad Tidings: A Celebration of Christmas

Sunday, Jan. 6, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. during Epiphany Program

Closed other Sundays and December 17 and 18.

Admission: Donations Welcome

“Christmas in the Castle” Guided Tours

Friday, Nov. 23 - Sunday, Jan., 6, 2013

Mondays - Fridays, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Saturdays, 1, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 2, during the Glad Tidings event

Sunday, Jan. 6 during the Epiphany program

Museum closed other Sundays and Dec. 24 and 25.

Admission: $8; $6 seniors/students with I.D. Members half price. Children 4 and under free

Glad Tidings: A Celebration of Christmas

Sunday, Dec. 2, 1-5 p.m. Admission: $8; $6 seniors/students with I.D., Members and children 4 and under free. $20 family cap (up to 4 individuals in one household; half price for additional guests)

Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale

Sunday, Dec. 2 - Saturday, Dec. 8

Sunday 1- 5 p.m. Cost included in price of admission to Glad Tidings;

Monday-Saturday, noon to 4:30 p.m. Admission: donations welcome.

Glencairn Christmas Sing Concert

Tuesday, Dec. 18, 8 p.m. (Doors open at 7:30)

Admission: Donations welcome

Seating capacity: 300

Epiphany Program

Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Donations welcome

Images (top to bottom):

Decorating Glencairn’s Great Hall is a Christmas tree with vintage and antique hand blown glass ornaments; beneath the tree is a pre-World War II Christmas village and Nativity scene.

Mildred Pitcairn with some of her grandchildren in the 1950s.

Close-up of the pre-World War II Christmas village Nativity scene on display in 2011.