Guest contributor Jettie Mescher shares her family’s annual
Christmas in Cincinnati tradition. Thanks, Jettie!
Be sure to see the “Meet Jettie” box at the bottom of the page.
The Christmas season wouldn’t be complete without our annual Mescher Christmas Walk that spans four generations and 40 years. Like thousands of other families, the Shillito Elves and the CG&E/ Duke Trains hold a special place in our memories. What fun it has been to continue this tradition and add to the memories!
It was with great anticipation every year that our children looked forward to the trip to see the wonderful sights of Christmas in Cincinnati with all of their cousins. You had to get up early and get downtown to beat the crowds but, of course, you never did and the crowds made it all the more fun and exciting. Our children, who are in their 30’s and 40’s now, remember munching on a cookie from Mrs. Claus while waiting patiently for their turn to see the sparkling scenes with elves, giant candy, the Grinch and the trains crisscrossing throughout a large mountain. It was so bright and festive you could just imagine life in the little villages that were nestled among the train tracks. At the end was the ceremonial picture with the heads sticking out of the train engine cutout.
After that, everyone would go merrily down the streets of downtown to see the next exciting sights until finally ending at Shillito’s to see Santa’s Elves. The first thing the children saw was the mailbox and they put in their letters, or pictures they had drawn, and watched excitedly as they moved down the conveyor belt right to Santa’s mail room at the North Pole. Then came smiles of delight as they knew for sure that Santa would see their hearts desire and bring them the toys they wished for on Christmas morning.
My husband, Garry and I relive that time as we continue the tradition of the Christmas Walk with our children: Andy, Brady and Sara, our son in law: Adam, daughter in law: Katie and our granddaughters: Brinley 5 and Lily 3. We had the pleasure of seeing the Santa’s Workshop in Mariemont, where the Shillito Elves currently reside, and the train display at the Cincinnati Museum Center. They both still hold the same magic for our family. You may want to plan extra time and buy tickets to visit the Art of the Brick at the Museum Center this year. It’s amazing to see and imagine the number of Lego’s and the hours it took to recreate famous art out of Legos!
First stop was the Holiday Display featuring the trains and Pogie and Patter. They are now in a much bigger space at the Cincinnati Museum Center, offer a wider viewing platform and a look from above to see just how fascinating the whole train layout is. The train display is manned by train hobbyists who are happy to answer any questions you might ask. On your walk to the Holiday Train Display, you get to see some museum displays and reminisce about the way Cincinnati looked in years past. As we turned the corner, we suddenly heard excited squeals as our youngest granddaughter, Lily, had spotted Santa himself! She hurried to get Brinley and they went running off to see him close up.
The little Lego Village with fields of flowers and people working is fun to see and we all enjoy trying to find the surprise characters like Superman, Scooby Doo and Ghost Busters that are scattered about in the display. Continue walking through the lighted arch and you will come to another room with a life-size train where the little ones can enjoy a ride through an enchanting display with the original elves from CG & E.
We next found Pogie and Patter who we would visit in the Carew Tower Arcade in years past. It always fascinated our children that reindeer would talk right to them and ask their names. That tradition remains as the reindeer led our grandchildren in a sing along of Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer and asked what they wanted from Santa.
From the Museum Center we were off to Krohn Conservatory to see the beautiful Poinsettia Tree, a small train display and miniature Cincinnati scenes. I remember going to a workshop with a friend many years ago and making some of the nature ornaments that adorn the large live tree in the entry. I’m certain they are still hanging there and make a point to tell my children this every year. We always make a wish and throw pennies in the waterfall and, of course, there is the competition to see who can make it on a palm leaf or the ledge. Outside we finish with one of the few Nativities in the area and it is a favorite with the life-size Joseph, Mary, smiling Baby Jesus and live animals. I love seeing the children gaze quietly at the manger for a few moments and then back they go to the excitement about the animals.
And finally our beloved Shillito Elves. The excitement of my grown children when they caught wind of the Elves coming back was funny. It took a bit of sleuthing but they tracked them down. We are thrilled to have them back in our tradition! Now we make the trek from Kentucky to the quaint village of Mariemont to see them each year. We’re discovering easy ways to get there and enjoyed dinner at the Dilly Deli this year.
It is so fun to go through and hear the memories of my children and the comments of the grandchildren. Our grown children look and look though the original letters and try to find theirs and are certain one of the originals is theirs. We continue on through the many displays wondering what antics the elves are up to this year. Brinley, our 5 year old granddaughter, laughs at the mess the elves make while making candy canes. The girls enjoy seeing the wooden toys being made with tiny hammers and saws and they laugh at the elf who got stuck upside down in the snow bank. The many windows paint the picture of the busy North Pole and create excitement for us all. A new section features Santa busily placing gifts in a home and then he appears at the window and he shouts a merry ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’. We finish just as we did in the past by seeing just how many days until Santa takes off on his journey around the world. The different emotions are fun to hear. Our children were so excited to see it was only a few days away (and I was panicked thinking about how much I still had to do) and now Lily just wants to get out before Santa takes off. Lots of great laughs going through this lovingly restored animated workshop. It is a true gift to see Christmas through the eyes of children.
What a blessing it is for my husband and me to be able to continue this tradition year after year. Looking through old pictures I found one of my husband holding our second son, who was just 1 year old in 1977, to talk with Pogie and Patter and now this same son is 39 and doing the same with his daughter. Christmas traditions are special for each and every family and I hope that our family and yours will continue to create memories for years to come that fill our hearts with love and joy. Merry Christmas!
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Christmas From Long Ago Returns To Cincinnati