LAKE JACKSON — Dreary skies and muddy water outside gave way to lit-up Christmas trees, a Santa and history about different ways people have celebrated the holiday when people stepped inside the Lake Jackson Historical Museum.
Holidays Around the World followed the traditional Breakfast with Santa, which the museum hosts annually as part of the Festival of Lights. Katelyn Landry, program and education coordinator, wanted to expand the museum's role in the event.
“We wanted to come up with an event that we could do all day rather than only just breakfast,” she said.
Landry chose the broader name for the exhibit because most of the holidays are not Christmas celebrations.
“I wanted to have something that was more educational, to be in line with our role as a museum,” Landry said.
Work to set up the museum went on all week. Arts and crafts tables were assembled, lights wrapped the railing on the second floor and ornaments taped along the walls.
“Kids have the opportunity to learn about some different traditions and holidays and cultures around the world,” she said.
Five holidays had their own exhibits — Soyal, St. Lucia Day, Diwali, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah.
As families walked through the entrance, they received passports for which they could earn a sticker for each task completed, symbolic of traveling around the world.
If they earned all the stickers, they would get theirs entered into a raffle to win an unknown prize.
St. Lucia Day is the festival of lights celebrated Dec. 13 in Sweden, Norway and Swedish-speaking areas of Finland in honor of St. Lucia, one of the earliest Christian martyrs. The Romans executed her for her beliefs in 304 CE.
In commemoration, wreath crowns are created to represent hope and light. Community members were able to make their own Saturday, using a green paper base with custom designs and paper-made candles glued to the inside of the crown around the base.
Soyal is a winter solstice celebration of the Hopi Native American tribes in northern Arizona.
Lindsey Scovil, executive director of Lake Jackson Historical Association, suggested including Soyal because November is Native American Heritage Month.
“The ceremony itself is actually very private," Landry said."People from the outside are not allowed in, but people have told people about what the celebrations are like, and it's a really interesting and elaborate kind of ritual that's about like a Sun Spirit coming back after long dark days.”
Diwali is a Hindu holiday celebrated in India and across South Asia heralding the triumph of good over evil.
Diwali and Kwanzaa had their own areas for arts and crafts tools, scattered across tables.
John Fey, a longtime museum board member, sat at a table to teach others about the Hanukkah game played with a dreidel.
One of the players makes a paper four-sided spinning top, with symbols on each side representing Gimel, meaning take the whole pot; Hay, meaning take half; Shin, for take on; and nun for do nothing.
Each player puts one token from their pile into the center, and they take turns spinning the dreidel. When a player runs out of pieces, they are out of the game and the last person with a token wins.
Lake Jackson resident David Peters and his wife, Luisa, were looking at the background of the events while their two children, Tommy and Emma, were fixated on the arts and crafts.
“Fun for the kids and it's kind of nice having something like this put on by the city," Peters said. "And so it's been really nice to get out and have things like these family-oriented activities.”
Family activities have been critical for them, having recently moved from West Virginia.
"Here in Lake Jackson, as far as what the city puts on, there's been a lot of really family oriented activities all the time,” he said.
Lake Jackson resident Erin Christian altered plans to take in the museum because of the unpleasant weather outside.
“We looked at alternatives and this was here so it was a great alternative for a rainy day,” Christian said.
When her two children were not on the airplane simulation, a hot topic at the museum, they enjoyed coloring pages at Soyal and making hats at the St. Lucia exhibit.
It was Christian and her kids' first time getting to go to the museum.
“When you're born and raised somewhere, you kind of tend to ignore the things that are already in your community. So it's wonderful,” she said.
Lake Jackson resident Christina Ricks home schools her children and found the museum's activity both fun and educational.
“We have our own religion, but it's so neat to have them educated in other religions,” Ricks said.
That was the idea behind the activity, Landry said.
“We just wanted to give people the opportunity to learn a little bit more about things other than Christmas and definitely celebrate Christmas,” she said.