In the early days of 2020, plans for the 55th Marietta Candlelight Home Tour were falling in line. Half of the homes were picked for the tour by the time COVID-19 brought life to a halt. This would not be the year for 1,500 people to parade through homes.
Could this tradition be saved and done safely?
The volunteers behind the tour decided to move the tour outdoors and invited the entire town to decorate their homes.
While the coronavirus has canceled a lot this year, there still are holiday tours in Lancaster County. Some have moved outdoors. Some have shrunk group sizes and limited hours. Each one is moving forward to bring some much-needed joy in a most difficult year.
John Enterline compares the spirit of Marietta’s townwide tour to the fable of Pandora’s box.
“After all of the fire and the fury and everything that was left out of Pandora’s box, Pandora looked down and what was the last thing she saw?” he asks. “She saw hope. Little hope was down in her box.
“That’s what we are. We have hope. I want to spread that hope along.”
Yuletide at Wheatland
What: Join a virtual tour of Wheatland decorated for the holidays to learn more about James Buchanan and Christmas traditions of the past.
COVID-19 changes: Instead of in-person, the real-time tours will take place via Zoom.
When: Starting Saturday, Nov. 28, tours are Thursdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. through Dec. 26. Additional tours will be Dec. 21-23 and 28-30 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. There will be no tours on Christmas Eve.
Tickets: $15 per screen. Buy tickets at lancasterhistory.org/yuletide.
Did you know? Christmas trees became popular during the reign of Queen Victoria, who was a friend of Buchanan and his niece, Harriet Lane. The tour will combine history and holidays with details like this.
Christmas Candlelight Tours
What: Explore the winter and holiday traditions of Indigenous peoples in Lancaster County, prior to European settlement, and Mennonite families in the early 18th century at Hans Herr House and Museum in a pre-recorded event available for at-home viewing.
COVID-19 changes: While Hans Herr House initially planned to host its 2020 Christmas Candlelight Tours in person, organizers at the historic site have since decided to make the festivities virtual.
When: Video premieres online Dec. 12. Those who purchase access will receive a link via email when the video is available to view.
Tickets: $15 for for virtual access at bit.ly/1719CandleVideo.
Benefits: Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society.
Jingle Bell Tour
What: This self-guided driving tour takes you to eight homes and six businesses in the Ephrata area, decorated for the holidays. Stay in your vehicle and on an app, listen to Santa share more about each stop.
COVID-19 changes: There won’t be a trolley shuttling people through the tour.
When: Friday, Dec. 4, through Saturday, Dec. 12.
Tickets: $5 per vehicle. Each ticket comes with coupons to local businesses. Buy tickets at mainspringofephrata.org.
Benefits: Mainspring of Ephrata
Did you know? Because this year’s tour is self-guided and not seen from a trolley, organizers went a little further to add two homes in Akron.
O Little Town of Marietta: The Town that Saved the Spirit of Christmas
What: Drive or walk through Marietta in this outdoor Christmas festival. The entire town has been asked to decorate homes, businesses and churches.
COVID-19 changes: This is an outdoor tour. A map will share which homes have decorated front rooms, visible from outside. The decorating workshop will not be held this year.
When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6.
Tickets: Not required. Donations are accepted.
Benefits: Marietta Restoration Associates
Did you know? Usually, the committee awards more than a dozen sites for their decorations. This year, every property gets a ribbon.
This year, Marietta Restoration Associates teamed up with Stephen Ulrich of Wilkum Studios to produce a video series of Christmas decoration tutorials. See the full playlist of videos here, and check out the first video in the series below.
Christmas Candlelight Tour (This tour has been canceled.)
What: In Lititz, tour the 1792 Johannes Mueller House and the museum next door to learn about holiday tradition of the past.
COVID-19 changes: Tour groups will be limited to six people and only one group will be allowed in the house at a time. Food will not be available.
When: 5-9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11.
Where: Lititz Historical Foundation, 145 E. Main St.
Tickets: $5 per person. Buy tickets at facebook.com/LititzMuseum.
Benefits: Lititz Historical Foundation
Information: facebook.com/LititzMuseum or call the museum 717-627-4636, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Did you know? Most of the decorations are natural: pine, holly, sage and chestnuts. Moravian stars outside add to the ambiance.
Let's Come Together and Light Up Lititz
What: Take this driving tour of 23 decorated homes in and around Lititz and vote for your favorite location in this event organized by Lititz Springs Park.
When: Vote Dec. 11-24.
Tickets: Not required. Voting is free.
Did you know? Participants were asked to decorate for daytime and nighttime so you can take the tour in daylight if you’re an early bird.
What: This virtual nighttime lantern tour at Ephrata Cloister will focus on the site in 1777, when it served as a military hospital.
COVID-19 changes: This annual tradition will be virtual, along with two other Christmas events at the cloister.
When: The virtual lantern tour will go live Saturday, Dec. 26, and be available through Jan. 6 for ticket holders.
Benefits: Ephrata Cloister
Did you know? The cloister will move two other holiday programs online. The candlelight open house will feature an interpreter portraying a householder, one of the site’s married residents circa 1782. The chat will be livestreamed at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28, for a $1 donation. The Christmas at the Cloister music program will be virtual and have a mix of songs from the chorus recorded before the pandemic, a guest musician and scripture reading. Tickets are $10. The program goes lives Monday, Dec. 14, and will be available for a few weeks.
The buildings are closed to the public but they will be decorated with candles in the windows in early December. The grounds remain open.