NOTE: The descriptions of the places in this guide were accurate at the time the articles were posted. Please be advised that you should call ahead before traveling to any of them.

Paradise, PA - Home of the Belshcnickel

By: Michelle Harper

Paradise, PA - Home of the Belshcnickel

Paradise, PA - Home of the BelshcnickelWhoever said “Christmas comes but once a year” hasn’t paid a visit to the National Christmas Center in Paradise, PA, located on Rt. 30 just 6 miles outside of Amish territory in Lancaster, PA. Here you can relive the magical memories of Christmas year round. And what place is more fitting than Lancaster County, which is home of the earliest documented Christmas tree in 1821? The museum is a “must see” for the child in all of us. The ride alone on Rt. 41 through scenic PA is well worth the trip.

SantaFrom the moment you step foot in the door, you realize that you are entering an enchanted world as your senses are filled with the sights and sounds of Christmas. Your imagination takes over as you expect the snow to start falling and are almost certain that you can smell the Christmas dinner cooking. For those of us "young" enough to remember, you can practically see your childhood Christmas unfolding before your eyes in the 1950's Christmas scene complete in every detail down to the old-fashioned TV set in the corner. The wax statues, made from a unique process called life casting, almost appear to step out of the scenes. Antiques from each period depicted add to the realism.

Tudor TownChances are you will find something that reminds you of your Christmas Past as the museum has antiques and collectibles as far back as the 1800's. The hallway is lined with wall to wall Santas (over 500 of them) filling every nook and cranny. St. Nick is depicted in every way imaginable through the years, including the Belschickel, Pennsylvania's earliest version of Santa.

In addition, the museum houses toys and Christmas trees through out history. So if you ever wondered where that giant aluminum tree with the colored spinning wheel from the late 60's went - its right here. Actually, there are 10 of them. (Some things never get thrown out that probably should be.) In fact, if you have some old Christmas memorabilia lying around gathering dust, maybe you should contact the museum as they take donations. You never know where it might turn up.

Tudor TownAs you enter Santa's workshop room you can't help but gasp with delight. The animated characters are busily preparing for the "big day". The scene is reminiscent of the world's largest music box and it is all but impossible to take in it all in a single quick viewing, as there is action every where. The fantasy continues as you then enter the animated storybook village of Tudor Town, where the story of unfolds of an old English town filled with animals learning the true meaning of the season.

What Christmas would be complete without an elaborate train set filling an entire room? The huge recreation is the envy of any model train enthusiast. The ceiling is decorated to look like the bottom of a huge Christmas tree making it all the more impressive. Rows and rows of trains travel in and out of many tiny Christmas Villages.

Your journey continues from the magical to the miraculous as you suddenly find yourself 2000 years back in time walking the path of Mary and Joseph through the realistically recreated streets of the Roman Empire toward Bethlehem. Historically accurate replicas of clothing, buildings and artifacts help make the scenes more realistic. The sand and stones crunch beneath your feet as you stroll along and you begin to move from spectator to participant. Sounds of the languages spoken during that time fill the air and you learn of the danger of bandits and wild animals that would have made your journey more treacherous. Your journey finally ends with a life-sized nativity that conveys the true meaning of Christmas.

Any time you wish to recapture the Christmas spirit and relive the joys of childhood, visit the National Christmas Center. In a world filled with high tech wonders, this is a real nostalgic visit back to a simpler time. It’s bound to cure the Grinchiest Grinch and the Scroogiest Scrooge. The area also offers many other nearby attractions, as well as many restaurants and quaint hotels. It is the perfect place to spend the day (the tour takes about 1 -2 hours) or an entire weekend. Just be sure to bring the kids or just bring the kid in you. A good time will be had by all.

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