diamond geezer

 Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Past (at the Geffrye Museum)
For a slightly different twist on the festive season, the Geffrye Museum always comes up trumps. Every Christmas they deck out their museum with appropriate seasonal decorations, and every year I go back to enjoy the presentation. The Geffrye, if you're not familiar, is a museum of historic middle-class interiors. That means eleven living rooms, decked out as they might have appeared in particular years from the 17th century to the end of the 20th. Each is lovingly decked out with period furniture and fittings, with an increasing amount of clutter evident as we move from Jacobean simplicity into the industrial and consumer eras. One rather lovely feature is that the museum is laid out inside a row of 18th century almshouses, with each successive room like stepping forward in time as you walk from one end to the other. The one downside is that the main passageway is very narrow and so it only takes a few lingering visitors to clog the place up. There are plenty of visitors at the moment, as middle-class NE London pops in for a pre-Christmas gander. Watch out for children underfoot, not all of whom have been swallowed up by the organised activities in the foyer by the cafe.

The earlier historical decorations are understated evergreens - a wreath of holly here, a garland there. Only in Victorian times does the first tree appear, coupled with more commercial accessories (and some appropriate sheet music on the piano). By the 20th century we finally see paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling, presents scattered across the rug and dining tables laid with crackers - just how you or your grandparents might have celebrated. The Geffrye adds longevity to its displays by spreading its historical tableaux across the period from Christmas Eve to Twelfth Night. A table laid with New Year treats, a post-Christmas musical evening, an iced Twelfth Night cake - all these are remembered and their traditions duly remembered. No problem, then, if you can't get in for a visit this week. The festive theme continues until January 6th, when there'll be a ceremonial burning of the holly and the ivy in the garden, and some carol singing and a glass of mulled wine. Worth a visit any time of the year, but especially over the next two weeks.
Kingsland Road, E2 8EA - closed Dec 24, 25, 26, Jan 1

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