Historic Waco Foundation volunteers dress a Christmas tree with dolls and ornaments at the Earle-Napier-Kinnard House, 814 S. Fourth St.

Christmases past and present overlap this weekend with downtown events such as Christmas at the Silos, A Dr Pepper Christmas and First Friday offering present-day celebration and shopping and this year’s Christmas on the Brazos providing a look back in the past.

The latter comes in “Christmas Through The Decades,” in which three Historic Waco Foundation homes are decorated in styles suggesting three historical periods: the Victorian era, the 1920s and the 1950s.

Or, in short, trees and toys, green and oranges, tinsel and Elvis.

“We want people to feel like they’re stepping back in time,” explained HWF marketing director Julie Olivere.

The Earle-Napier-Kinnard House, 814 S. Fourth St., will represent the Victorian era with the McCulloch House, 407 Columbus Ave., standing in for the 1920s, and the East Terrace, 100 Mill St., the 1950s.

Five highlighted items in each house will show what was distinctive about Christmas celebrations in that time period, mirrored in some houses by live music and entertainment. HWF Curator Jenni Opalinski said visitors not only should get a sense of how Christmas was observed in the past, but where some of today’s traditions got their start.

The Victorians of the late 19th century, for instance, started the tradition of decorated Christmas trees, with trees trimmed with paper chains, popcorn and berry garlands, and dolls, she said. Books of Christmas carols and anthems begin to show up as carol singing becomes popular with many homes furnished with pianos or other musical instruments. Children’s toys also become a Christmas tradition, although in many families, they were passed down from older siblings rather than purchased new, Opalinski said.

Flash forward to the 1920s, where Christmas meant oranges, a rare treat in days before transportation and refrigeration made them readily available in grocery stores; and a sense of fashion in clothing and Art Deco-inspired decorations, with the color green joining long-traditional red on the Christmas palette. The ’20s also sees the creation of Putz villages, tiny model villages set up under the tree, some of which would add miniature trains in later years.

In the 1950s, T’s begin to transform American homes and Christmas celebrations: aluminum trees, tinsel and TV dinners, the latter a signal of consumer interest in convenience. East Terrace brings the period’s characteristic rock ’n’ roll music into its celebration with a performance by an Elvis Presley imitator on Saturday and an “American Bandstand”-fueled sock hop on Sunday.

House details

Each home will offer a candelight tour between 6 and 9 p.m. Friday and participants are encouraged to visit all three for a $25 charge. “We want people to see all the houses,” Olivere said. Harpist Gretchen Williams will play at the Earle-Napier-Kinnard House, harpist Sarah Hall at East Terrace and Barnard Music instrumentalists at the McCulloch House.

Christmas on the Brazos’ traditional Breakfast with Santa takes place between 9 and 11 a.m. Saturday at McCulloch House, with breakfast, photos with Santa and kids’ crafts among the activities. Admission is $10 per family.

House hours for the weekend are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. An Elvis impersonator will perform at 1 p.m. Saturday with an “American Bandstand” sock hop from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, both at East Terrace.

Weekend house tour tickets are $20 and good for all three houses. Tickets are available in advance at the Historic Waco Foundation offices at 810 S. Fourth St. and at each house.

Other downtown Waco Christmas activities this weekend include:

  • Christmas at the Silos, Magnolia Market at the Silos, 601 Webster Ave.

A book signing by “Today Show” anchor Hoda Kotb and evening screenings of Christmas movies highlight two days of shopping at the annual Christmas at the Silos, Friday and Saturday at Magnolia Market.

Kotb will sign copies of her book “I’ve Loved You Since Forever” between 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday with admission the purchase of her book. “Today Show” fans also may want to watch this coming week for a segment on her visit to the Silos.

Christmas at the Silos also will feature showings of “The Polar Express” at 7 p.m. Friday and “It’s A Wonderful Life” at 7 p.m. Admission for the movies is $10 for adults, $5 for children.

Santa Claus will be present from 6 to 8 p.m. both days of Christmas at the Silos with children’s activities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. including face painting, train rides, letters to Santa and photos with Santa. Grown-ups more interested in shopping can visit the nearly four dozen vendors setting up shop in the Christmas Market for the weekend.

Christmas Market hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

  • A Dr Pepper Christmas, Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute, 300 S. Fifth St.

The Dr Pepper Museum’s annual family Christmas celebration, held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, combines Christmas crafts, carol singing, treats and a visit from Santa Claus.

New this year: It’s free.

  • First Friday, various downtown locations

Downtown Waco’s monthly First Friday celebration will take on a holiday hue from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday with various venues and merchants putting a Christmas spin on merchandise, live entertainment, food and drink.

  • A Texas Country Christmas, Buzzard Billy’s, 100 N. Interstate 35.

Local musicians Chris Low, Lauren January, Mike Donahue, Michael Saldana and Luke LaGrange appear for a night of the title, beginning at 7 p.m. Friday.

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor