Each year the staff of the Museum of the Cape Fear researches the decorative styles of the Victorian era to come up with a theme to decorate the Poe House and give the public a peek into Christmas traditions of the Victorian era. 
    “The theme this year is the first decade of the 20th century,” said Heidi Bleazey, Poe House educator. “The process has usually been researching through Ladies Home Journal magazines of the time period of the house.”
Of course the house is always swagged in greenery from the outside.
    “It looks amazing,” said Bleazey. “We are doing traditional greenery indoors. We are doing a small tabletop tree this year and putting it where many of our regular visitors are used to seeing a full-sized Christmas tree.” 
    According to Bleazey, Christmas trees began in pop culture as tabletop size. While the Germanic cultures were embracing the Christmas tree tradition, it wasn’t until Queen Victoria married Albert and he brought some of those traditions to England that the British started using trees during the holidays. {mosimage}
    “But our museum represents southeastern North Carolina and even though these things were happening in Europe, many North Carolinians, based on their Scotch Irish or Scottish heritage, didn’t adopt those (traditions),” said Bleazey. “So even into the 1870’s Christmas trees were not very common in homes — so you are seeing a lot of variety in terms of styles and sizes and even what was put on the tree.”
    Another cultural tidbit that adds some insight to the mindset of the Victorian lady of the house is the responsibility she bore to represent her husband well by keeping an immaculate home.
    “There was this cult of domesticity or conspicuous consumption — sort of just creating this “wow factor” in your home,” said Bleazey.   
    The dining room would have been the public room that visitors came into and it was Mrs. Poe’s job to impress them when they walked in. The woman was responsible for raising her husband’s social status. Mr. Poe was a public figure in the community, so if somebody was coming over to dinner, his home — even to the point of what was being served and the manners displayed in that dining room — should reflect on him as well as humanly possible.
     “Everything about that house should put Mr. Poe and his family and their status up on a pedestal,” said Bleazey.        So it is with that in mind that the museum staff planned this year’s decorations.
    “Probably the most spectacular thing happening this year is this dramatic dining room ceiling that we are doing,” said Bleazey. “We are going to have 270 yards of 3-inch satin ribbon latticed (woven) across the ceiling. Then at every interval there is a sprig of holly and the ribbons ooze down the walls.”
    The staff found the idea in a 1906 Ladies Home Journal magazine and thought the idea would be perfect for the Poe house. 
    “When people come to a Victorian house there is sort of this expectation,” said Bleazey. “No, I can’t say that Mrs. Poe ever put a lattice ceiling on and I don’t know what size their tree was, typically, so we have turned to what was typical nationally and internationally and try to balance that out with what was happening here.”
    The display opens on Nov. 25 and runs through Jan 11, 2009. The Poe House is located next to the Museum of the Cape Fear on Arsenal Avenue. Tours are conducted hourly during normal operating hours and admission is free. Call 486-1330 for more info.

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