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Top 5 reasons to check out Placer’s museums at Christmas

By: Gus Thomson of the Auburn Journal
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Top 5 reasons to check out Placer’s museums at Christmas

The ghosts of Christmases past are alive and creating some yuletide magic at Placer County museums in Auburn.

All three of the museums – the Bernhard Museum on Auburn Folsom Road, the Placer County Museum inside Old Town’s Placer County Courthouse and Lincoln’s Way’s Gold Rush Museum in Downtown Auburn – have been given a Christmas makeover.

Museums Administrator Ralph Gibson said Monday that the variety should entice locals and visitors to explore more or revisit old favorites in the weeks and days leading up to Dec. 25.

Here’s a Top 5 list of Christmas oriented attractions at the museums, which all have free admission:

1. 49er Christmas

Christmas 1849 was full of hope for the thousands of gold-seekers who swarmed into California’s gold country. Letters and journals from that period reflect the feelings of the times and many are being displayed on exhibit panels at the Gold Rush Museum showing how the Christmas celebration was marked.

Gibson points out that the jottings come not only from the gold fields but also from travelers both on ship and the overland trail making their way to the Golden State.

Of note is one journal entry describing a miner and his mates cooking and eating a string that had been used to bind a ham that been eaten long before Christmas Day. Another describes an attempt gone wrong to bag a bunny for the Christmas feast.

2. Krampus connection

A twisted chapter in Austro-Bavarian folklore comes alive at the Bernhard Museum, with an introduction to Krampus. The museum was home for nearly a century to members of the Bernhard family and sits in one of the oldest buildings in Placer County, constructed in 1851. The Bernhards were of German stock and the legend of Krampus was and continues to be wrapped up in Christmas stories surrounding the house. Krampus is the alter-ego to Santa, a half-demon who punishes children who misbehave. There’s a fleeting glimpse in a hallway of Krampus and the spirit of the Christmas figure lives on in a display of 19th century greeting cards.

3. Lighting the way

The Placer County Courthouse cupola will provide a surprising Christmas image, with red and green lights peaking out of the top of the legal landmark just in time for the season. Below, the first floor Placer County Museum is decorated in Christmas finery. A Christmas tree has early Christmas cards. A community tree invites children to hang paper ornaments they can make onsite. There’s also a scavenger hunt and a giant golden Christmas tree lit up and decorated.

4. Museum extra

The Placer County Museum will be staying open later than usual on Dec. 9 and 16 to take part in Old Town Country Christmas. The celebration lasts from 5-9 p.m. both nights. Museum visitors will not only find the festivals only heated restrooms, but Mrs. Claus at the fireplace reading stories. Craft making, cookies and hot apple cider are also inducements to take in a little history at Christmas time.

5. Christmas lights

If you’re planning on taking a drive to get in the Christmas spirit by viewing outdoor displays, you might want to swing over to the Bernhard Museum after dark. The exterior Christmas lighting is up and it’s bigger and better than past years, with an expanded number of bulbs shining bright in a picturesque setting.