Santa greets visitors to the Atlanta History Center’s Candlelight Nights, being presented Dec. 11 and 18. (Photo credit: Bonnie M. Moret/Atlanta History Center)
Santa greets visitors to the Atlanta History Center’s Candlelight Nights, being presented Dec. 11 and 18. (Photo credit: Bonnie M. Moret/Atlanta History Center)

The Atlanta History Center is expanding its Candlelight Nights events this holiday season to offer visitors a chance to see and hear Christmas celebrations from three distinct periods of the past.

“What makes Candlelight Nights distinct, we think, is that it gives Atlanta History Center guests the opportunity to experience Christmas as in days gone by,” History Center spokesman Howard Pousner said.

On Dec. 11 and Dec. 18, three historic houses on the center’s Buckhead property will show how Southerners celebrated Christmas during the pioneer days, during the Civil War era and during the 1930s, Pousner said.

“While history was at the core of last year’s event, a special effort has been made to make the three historic home experiences distinct for our guests,” Pousner said.

Connected by candlelit walkways, the three buildings will present decorations, music and actors portraying inhabitants from the different eras: an 1821, frontier-style observance at the Wood Family Cabin; an 1861 Christmas at the Smith Family Farm; and a 1930 soiree at the Swan House.

“Meet the Past” museum theater characters are scheduled to share stories of holiday traditions of their specific places and times. For instance, guests at the Smith Family Farm help Civil War-era residents decorate for Christmas, and listen to stories and songs of the enslaved who express their hopes for the end of slavery.

At the Swan House, Tray Dahl & The Jugtime Ragband bring a New Orleans-style jazz sound to holiday classics of the 1920s and 1930s.

The voices of the Atlanta Sacred Harp Singers will resound from the pioneer-era Wood Family Cabin around the canopy of Swan Woods, just steps away from Swan House, Pousner said.

The History Center’s holiday celebration is not limited just to holidays of the past.

“We will have a full-fledged Christmas Market as part of the event for the first time,” Pousner said. “It will be in our Allen Atrium, our dramatic, new front door off West Paces Ferry Road that recently opened inside the Atlanta History Museum.” The market is filled with local crafts and artisanal creations, he added.

Children have an opportunity to meet Santa and pose for photographs at the Garden Overlook.

Souper Jenny, set to open a new restaurant at the History Center in April, will sell soups, sandwiches, salads and treats in the Grand Overlook Ballroom. Tastes of winter vegetable soup also will be offered at Smith Family Farm and Brunswick stew at the Wood Family Cabin.

This special holiday program is $10 for members; $15 for nonmembers; $8 for children. Atlanta History Center is located at 130 West Paces Ferry Road in Atlanta.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit:

Cookie decorating at the Atlanta History Center’s Smith Family Farm during Candlelight Nights, being presented Dec. 11 and 18. (Photo credit: Bonnie M. Moret/Atlanta History Center)
Cookie decorating at the Atlanta History Center’s Smith Family Farm during Candlelight Nights, being presented Dec. 11 and 18. (Photo credit: Bonnie M. Moret/Atlanta History Center)

Here are exhibitions and performances planned for the three historic houses.

Wood Family Cabin. Be transported to Christmastime 1821 and meet a pioneer family just settling into new lives on the Georgia frontier. Savor a taste of Brunswick stew provided by Souper Jenny while enjoying live music, hands-on-activities for a make n’ take toy and the smell of a holiday meal smoldering over the open hearth.

Atlanta Sacred Harp Singers, 7 p.m, 8 p.m., 9 p.m. The Atlanta Sacred Harp Singers perform historic a cappella shape-note hymns from “The Sacred Harp,” a collection first published in Georgia in 1844.

Smith Family Farm. Travel to Christmastime in 1861 and encounter characters from the first year of the Civil War as they share their personal stories and revive traditions of the past. Guests will help residents of the farm decorate with traditional crafts-making and hands-on activities like popcorn- and garland-making, salt-dough ornament activities, candle-dipping, blacksmithing and open-hearth cooking. Enjoy a taste of winter vegetable soup provided by Souper Jenny.

Christmas Tree Lighting, 6 p.m., 8 p.m., 9 p.m. Listen to caroling greet you as you gather round to light the candles on the Christmas tree.

The Yule Log, 6:15 p.m, 7:15 p.m., 8:15 p.m., 9:15 p.m. Stories and songs sung around the fire as the enslaved community celebrates Christmas and hopes for the end of slavery. Afterward, visit with interpreters as they discuss resistance and the history of holidays for the enslaved.

A Christmas Feast, 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m. Experience a special Christmas dinner as the Smiths sit down to a course of traditional Civil War-era delicacies and share family stories and traditions of the season.

“Meet the Past” Museum Theatre Performance: Stephen’s Story, 6:45 p.m., 7:45 p.m., 8:30 p.m. Meet Stephen, an enslaved woodworker who must face a crucial decision regarding his future during the holiday season. This decision will impact the lives of those closest to him, for better or worse.

Swan House. Revel in the holiday season of 1930 as you are transported to a Jazz Age Christmas party at the Swan House, where the Inman family and Swan House staff celebrates the season. Guests will encounter Grant Carter as he prepares a 1929 Hudson Super Six sedan for holiday travel in the city; meet Edward Inman as he shares why he donated to the Empty Stocking Fund and how the charity is helping those in need in Atlanta today; and go behind-the-scenes in the kitchen with Lucille Arnold as she prepares holiday meals and shares her plans on celebrating the holidays with her own family once her Swan House shift is done. Create your own 1930s holiday before enjoying dessert and listening to live music and singing in the Morning Room of the Swan House.

Tray Dahl & The Jugtime Ragband, 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m. Tray Dahl & The Jugtime Ragband is a New Orleans-style jazz band that specializes in 1920s and 1930s classics. Join the group as it performs Christmas songs of yesteryear, inspiring visitors to dance, smile and tap their feet.

Piano Christmas sing-along with Ruby Ross Wood, 5:45 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Ruby Ross Wood, the Inman’s interior decorator, leads guests in a sing-along of traditional Christmas songs.

Here are other events scheduled as part of the History Center’s Candlelight Nights events, to be held Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m.

Christmas Market, Dec. 11 and Dec. 18, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Purchase special, one-of-a-kind gifts from local artists and craftsmen.

Alliance Theatre Carolers, Dec. 11 and Dec. 18, 6:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. The Alliance Theatre Carolers sing Christmas carols during two special evening performances.

Visit with Santa Claus, Dec. 11, 5:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m. and Dec. 18, 7 p.m.–9:30 p.m. Grab your camera and get ready to photograph the family while visiting with Old Saint Nick.

Octave, an A Capella group, performs at the Mable Dorn Reeder Amphitheater, 6:15 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 8:15 p.m. Dec, 11 and Dec. 18.