The tiny railroad town of Brunswick, Maryland has a certain irresistibly quaint charm, and never more so than at Christmas time. November 29 and 30 the Brunswick Heritage Museum hosted a wonderful opportunity for families to experience what their great-grandparents did to celebrate the holidays. Guests were greeted on the first floor by a volunteer in beautiful period costume then ushered up the stairs to begin their journey back in time. On the second floor, a table beckoned visitors to sample a traditional Victorian Christmas cake. A far cry from the cakes we’re accustomed to in this century, it has relatively little sugar and no frosting. Much of the flavoring comes from molasses and spices such as cinnamon and ginger. After examining the many display cases showing life in the area one hundred years ago, you are welcome to stand in front of the American flag and take the Oath of Office to become the Mayor of Brunswick. A few of the items that can be seen include antique baseball jerseys, an old barber’s chair, and a Victorian wicker body basket-a grisly homage to the danger of working on the railroad tracks. Children can’t resist the rack of clothing in which they are invited to dress up so they can be properly attired for sitting in the Victorian parlor. Especially for the Victorian Christmas event, kids were able to make a paper cornucopia decorated with holiday stickers and filled with hard candies to hang on their Christmas tree at home. The third floor was focused completely on an enormous model train display with signs declaring the distance of various local towns from Washington’s Union Station.
Visitors to the museum on Saturday were treated to a bit of traditional Victorian entertainment as well. Punch and Judy shows were commonly seen on the streets of England in the seventeenth century, though they moved to the beaches during the nineteenth century. The Victorian era saw them migrate indoors to the parlors of patrons, at which point most puppeteers altered the script of the shows to focus on more family friendly material as opposed to mocking public executions and the like. Professor Horn’s performance, as seen at the Brunswick Heritage Museum, included a short magic show and a delightful musical performance using a box that when wound sounded much like an old fashioned calliope in addition to the puppet show itself. One thing that sets Punch and Judy shows apart from the average puppet show is that it requires audience participation. For instance, the Policeman puppet asked the children to call out if they saw Punch hiding. The children thoroughly enjoyed the antics of the puppets while the adults laughed at the Clown puppet calling a Devil puppet a “tobacco lobbyist.”
After enjoying the museum, the perfect place to stop for lunch is a few doors down at Railroaders Coffee and Tea. Prices are very reasonable, and the sandwiches are positively delectable. The International sandwich includes guacamole, brie cheese, and apple slices heated on a panini press. The coffee is delicious and the staff are delightful. When it comes to Christmas celebrations in western Maryland, the town of Brunswick takes the (Victorian) cake!