Holiday Tour 2022

Old Louisville Holiday Home Tour

As part of our participation in the 2022 Old Louisville Holiday Home Tour, the Filson complied resources to further showcase the customs, decorations, and holiday cheer we incorporated into the Ferguson Mansion this Holiday season.

The Filson decorations were generously supported through In-Kind sponsorships and loans from the following community members and businesses:

Digs Home and Garden | Old Louisville Flower Studio

Lionel Operating Club | K&I Model Railroad Club | Belmar Flower Shop | Filson Volunteers

Jewish Community members: Jaye Bittner, Karen Strauss, Michael Hymson, and Marsha Roth

Filson Holiday Card Collection

The Filson Library has a collection of greeting cards, including some early Christmas cards published during the Victorian era. Kentucky women carefully collected these cards over the years and pasted them into scrapbooks; their compilations were eventually donated to The Filson. Follow the links below to learn more about the cards in our collection and the history of the Christmas card.

The History and Customs of Chanukah 

In 2022, Chanukah begins on the evening of Sunday, December 18 and ends on the evening of Monday, December 26.  The Jewish calendar is lunisolar which means it syncs with both the lunar and solar cycles and dates change every year.  Chanukah usually falls in late November to December.  

Happy Hanukkah Image

Chanukah (can be spelled many ways) is celebrated by the Jewish people for eight days to commemorate the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the second century BCE. Beginning in 167 BCE, a tiny army of Jews, led by a man called Judah Maccabee, rebelled against the Syrian-Greek army and won back Jerusalem, the Holy Temple and religious freedom. Beginning in 164 BCE they began to clean up the ruined Temple and restore it.  The Ner Tamid, the Eternal Light that was always on and located in front of the Holy Alter was damaged and needed to be relit.  However, the oil used was a special purified oil and they could only find enough for one day.  It miraculously lasted for eight days, enough time to get the oil they needed.  Chanukah has been celebrated since for eight days as the Festival of Lights. 

The most important tradition associated with Chanukah is the lighting of candles in the Menorah. Each Menorah has nine candle holders.   On each of the eight nights a candle is lit, adding a new candle each night.  The ninth candle holder is called the Shamash, the servant light.  It is always lit first and used to light the other candles.  The candles are placed in the Menorah from right to left but are lit from left to right (lighting the newest addition first). 

Because of the miracle that happened with oil, we celebrate by eating foods cooked in oil, mainly potato pancakes called latkes or donuts called sufganiyot.  The jelly filled donuts are a particular favorite in Israel. 

Since Chanukah is not biblically ordained, the liturgy for the holiday is not well developed. It is a minor festival. Often it is celebrated with family and/or friends by having a celebratory meal with the above foods, playing a game of dreidel, and exchanging gifts. It has also assumed a community visible aspect such as the one you are now attending.  

The tradition of giving gifts of small amounts of money (known as Chanukah Gelt) as well as nuts and fruit developed in Europe prior to the 20th century.  Under the influence of Christmas, Chanukah has evolved into the central gift giving holiday. 

Chanukah Traditions 

Here is a simple recipe for potato latkes:  

Potato Latkes (taken from The Keneseth Israel Sisterhood Cookbook) 

6 potatoes 

2 eggs 

2 Tablespoons flour or matzo meal 

1 teaspoon salt 

Pepper to taste 

1 small onion, grated 

1 teaspoon baking powder 

Grate potatoes and drain.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Drop by tablespoon into at least ¼ inch deep hot fat.  Fry until brown on both sides. 

Note:  add a pinch of baking soda to the potato and onion mixture.  This keeps the potatoes white. 

Playing Dreidel 

A dreidel is a four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side. Nun, Gimmel, Hey and Shin.  They stand for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham which means a great miracle happened here.  When the Greeks and Romans forbid the Jewish people to study, they would gather in small groups to learn.  A watchman would let them know when soldiers were approaching so that they could hide their Hebrew studies and play games with the dreidel.  It has become a symbol of freedom. Video of Dreidel Rules.

Dreidel Rules

Victorian Era Decorations

The Filson’s Ferguson Mansion was completed in 1905.  In keeping with the period of the Mansion’s completion we have incorporated Victorian era decorations into our stop on the Old Louisville Holiday Home Tour.

In the Victorian era, homeowners decked their doorways, mantels and staircases with fresh greenery. Accents like ribbons, berries and fruits gave the greenery additional color.  Victorians decorated their evergreen trees with beads, tinsel, and paper ornaments while lighted candles provided the trees’ illumination.

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol established the importance of feasting with family and friends around the table as part of the holiday tradition.  The Cratchit family though of humble means centers their celebrations on a goose dinner.  The Victorian era ushered in this central feast to the Holiday festivities.  Tables would be decorated in the family’s finest dinnerware along with fruits and nuts.  Christmas Crackers were also introduced to the public at this time.