See 125-year-old German nativity at historical society's holiday open house

  • The centerpiece of the historical society's Holiday Open House is a 125-year-old German church nativity made by master sculptor Konrad Rabbels of Kevlaer, Germany. There are 27 figures with the largest being 40 inches tall. The crèche spans 15 feet.

    The centerpiece of the historical society's Holiday Open House is a 125-year-old German church nativity made by master sculptor Konrad Rabbels of Kevlaer, Germany. There are 27 figures with the largest being 40 inches tall. The crèche spans 15 feet. Courtesy of McHenry County Historical Society

 
 
Posted12/2/2022 6:00 AM

Visitors can immerse themselves in nostalgia at the McHenry County Historical Society's free Holiday Open House, set for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at the museum, 6422 Main St., Union.

The itinerary includes live music, a bake sale, holiday selfie-station, and a one-of-kind Christmas display compiled by Golden Glow of Christmas Past members Dave Harms and Lynne Eltrevoog.

 

This year's centerpiece is a 125-year-old German church nativity made by master sculptor Konrad Rabbels of Kevlaer, Germany. There are 27 figures with the largest being 40 inches tall. The crèche spans 15 feet.

In anticipation of next year's 40th anniversary of the movie "A Christmas Story," there will be three animated elves that appeared in the opening scene from the movie, where Ralphie looks in the window of Higbee's Department Store and spies his coveted Red Ryder BB gun.

Harms said this year marks the 140th anniversary of the first electric Christmas tree. Learn the history of early Christmas tree lighting with examples of light sets, including matchless stars, bubble lights and lighted tree stands. There will be examples of early feather trees including an early electrified version, offered to homeowners in Ohio if they converted to electricity in their homes in the 1920s.

Edward Hibberd Johnson, a business associate of inventor Thomas Edison, created the first known electrically illuminated Christmas tree at his home in New York City in 1882. He hand-wired 80 red, white and blue light bulbs and wound them around his Christmas tree. Johnson also invented the rotating tree stand that became particularly popular with aluminum trees. A selection of tree stands from the 1920 through the 1960s will be on display, as will timeline of various Christmas lights used from 1903 until the early 1970s.

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Also on display are small aluminum trees from the 1960s, including a 6-foot pink variety. See the advertising genius of Polk Brothers stores in Chicago with the Jolly Polk Santa and Snowman.

Stop in on your shopping day at the Marengo-Union Holiday Housewalk and Craft Fair. There will be Christmas tunes on a bubbling Wurlitzer jukebox, and free admission to the display and museum Saturday.

The display will remain up through Jan. 6, with the exception of Dec. 23, 26 and 30; as well as New Year's Day. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Regular museum admission applies after Dec. 3.

For information call (815) 923-2267 or visit GotHistory.org.

A limited number of guided group tours are available by appointment. Email kurt@mchenrycountyhistory.org.

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