Mahoning Valley Adapts Christmas Traditions

By Emily McCarthy

The Mahoning Valley Historical Society celebrates Christmas with both in-person and virtual events centered at the Tyler History Center. Photos by Emily McCarthy/The Jambar

“Memories of Christmas Past” draws many visitors to the Arms Family Museum. The annual exhibit of antique holiday decorations attracts large crowds, but this year, due to the crowds and limited space in the building, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society (MVHS) will close the museum’s doors Nov. 16 and move all Christmas events to its Tyler History Center location on Federal Street downtown. 

Several different events and displays will happen both in-person and online.

  1. William “Bill” Lawson, executive director of MVHS, said the displays will look different this year because of a big difference in the building. 

“It will look a lot different than ‘Memories of Christmas Past,’” he said. “The Arms Family Museum is an old house that has been around since the early 1900s and the displays included many items from Anthony Worrellia’s personal antique collection. He is our Christmas architect and he would decorate the rooms in certain themes that would remind guests of their childhood memories.”

Jessica Trickett, collections manager of MVHS, said with extra space in the ballroom, they were able to make a larger gift shop for visitors so they could spread out at a safe distance. Similar to the Arms Family Museum, some antiques will be at Tyler History Center, too.

“We are doing a big holiday gift mart on our ballroom level where people can come and look at both new and vintage merchandise,” she said. “[This is] something that has always been popular at our Arms Family Museum site.”

Trickett said other exhibits can be found in the museum.

 “We also have a smaller exhibit in our community history gallery that features the Historical Society’s own collection of decor, ornaments, even some gifts that were given between family and friends,” she said. “[This includes] images of people in the community and how they celebrated the holidays in the past.”

Trickett also said while there are many differences this year, the whole staff was able to be a part of their Christmas experience, and some things will resemble previous years.

“It’s a multiple staff effort. Each of us has our areas that we normally work on … we’re all kind of coordinating together to bring it to the public,” she said. “He [Worrellia] has definitely spearheaded the whole ballroom holiday shop. If you have liked what you have seen at Arms [Family Museum] in the past, he definitely has that feel, that flare, in the gift shop at Tyler [History Center] this year.”

Dave Ragan, the communications manager of MVHS, said they’re preparing this year’s Christmas displays to depict Youngstown’s history. 

“There’s a strong tradition of decorating windows for the holidays in downtown Youngstown, more so in the era of department stores and whatnot,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is create this nostalgic feel and a reminder of what it was like to see decorated windows … back in earlier decades. We have a beautiful display kind of installed there now.”

Ragan said there are many virtual experiences being offered as well, some of which have already started.

“We decided to balance it because going online provides a safer alternative for people that aren’t necessarily comfortable going out during this winter season,” he said. “We are going to control and provide social distancing, require face masks and all of that here at Tyler, but online we have a series of programs that are available through our website and through our social media pages.”

Ragan says their Facebook pages and YouTube also offer many programs. MVHS began a version of Mahoning Valley artiFACTS, which is shared via its Facebook page. The holiday edition will run until Dec. 30.

With many different events taking place, Ragan said the best way to see what is available is to go to the museum’s website.

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