Visitors tour Victorian mansion in Aurora, Indiana

CINCINNATI - The aroma of fresh evergreen can be found in holiday candles. A century ago, the scent came from live Christmas garland.

You can take a step back in time by visiting the Hillforest House Museum in Aurora, Indiana. The mansion looks just like it did in its original state when it was built in 1855.

"They festooned every doorway, staircase and light with these greens. They would also have cranberries, anything natural and so the house would have been decorated with anything fresh and it smelled very nice," said Hillforest docent Suzanne Ullrich

The original Victorian Christmas trees were perched on furniture.

"They were five and six feet tall that they would put them on the tables," Ullrich said.

The tradition was for the adults to trim the tree on Christmas eve after the children were nestled in bed.

"They would decorate them with handmade ornaments. They would put candles on the tips of the branches, but they would always have a bucket of water and a sponge on a stick in case the tree caught on fire," Ullrich explained.

After the traditional turkey dinner on Christmas day, children unwrapped foil cylinders filled with toys and candies.

The British-inspired treats were called crackers for the breaking noise the tube made when it was pulled open.

The Hillforest National historic landmark is open for tours Tuesday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. through December 30th.

The cost is $6 per person.


We know many of you will be watching the holiday bird for hours, making sure it cooks to perfection.

There is one organization that is inviting the whole family to watch the birds while they're still flying in the sky.

Birdwatchers say the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count has been a holiday tradition for 113 years.

They say it started out as an alternative to holiday bird shoots.

"It's a great winter activity, especially if the family can be home over the holiday. You've got the kids. You can all do it together and develop your bird watching skills," said Bill Creasey of the Cincinnati Nature Center.

The nature center says the information will be used to monitor climate change activity in birds.

You can be an ornithologist for a day on Sunday, December 30 from 8 a.m. to noon at the center at 4949 Tealtown Road in Milford.

Admission is free.

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