Children visit Christmas past

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ --  Hermann-Grima house has a holiday camp for kids where they  learn about how people celebrated the holidays in the 19th century. Campers take a walking tour through the French Quarter to the Gallier home and learn about architecture and lifestyles. Jenny Dyer, education coordinator for the two homes,  explains the history of the Ursuline Convent across the street as she leads the students to the Gallier home on Friday.
Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ -- Hermann-Grima house has a holiday camp for kids where they learn about how people celebrated the holidays in the 19th century. Campers take a walking tour through the French Quarter to the Gallier home and learn about architecture and lifestyles. Jenny Dyer, education coordinator for the two homes, explains the history of the Ursuline Convent across the street as she leads the students to the Gallier home on Friday.

Hermann-Grima house gives hands-on lessons about 19th century

Children who attended the annual Creole holiday camp at the Hermann-Grima house in the French Quarter this week didn’t just learn about the 19th century; they were able to experience Christmas past, from games and crafts to cooking.

Campers ages 6 to 11 made cornucopias, beaded ornaments and murals, and played games that were popular during that period of history, including “Pass the Smile” and “Blind Man’s Bluff.”

Youngsters had the opportunity to walk through the French Quarter, with stops at sites such as Ursuline Convent and Jackson Square, and took a special tour of the historic Gallier House at 1132 Royal St.

“New Orleans, I think, has a sort of unique history and one of the only ways to really pass it on are your children, to teach it to them either yourself or by camps like this,” said Jenny Dyer, education coordinator for the Hermann-Grima and Gallier historic houses. “They’re not going to learn it so much at school, not the types of things that we’re going to show them,” she said.

The camp was held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Ava Castler, 8, said, “I think it’s neat because you get to learn like historical stuff that happened hundreds and hundreds of years ago, and it’s fun to do all the arts and crafts — like yesterday we made air fresheners with little cloves and an orange.”

Paige Tschirn, 9, said, “What I really think is neat is that they have a lot of historical stuff. They show us what type of food you would eat and what type of games you would play if you were living back then.”

Campers didn’t just learn about historic cuisine, however; they also had the chance to prepare 19th-century dishes such as gingerbread cookies and apricot jumbles in the unique Hermann-Grima house kitchen.

“A lot of what [the children] are doing is hands-on in the open-hearth kitchen. We are one of the only original open-hearth kitchens left in the Quarter, so where else are they really going to see what it was like in the 19th century?” Dyer said.

Virginia Vaughan, 9, said she has attended the holiday camp several times,and she prefers learning by participating in activities such as those offered at the holiday camp.

“At school we just sit down, and they tell us,” Vaughan said. “Here we like walk around and look and get tours.”

“I like the history here,” Vaughan said. “I like all of it, it’s just fun.”

Thomas LaGrange, 11, expressed similar sentiments.

“I think it’s really fun, and I really like it,” LaGrange said of his camp experience. “I learned here how the Hermanns were rich but eventually fell into poverty, and the Grimas came and bought the house from them.”

LaGrange also said, “We’ve made some really cool, like, crafts, and I think I really want to come back next year because it was so fun.”