Fort celebrates Christmas with 1840s re-enactment

Holiday event includes crafting wreaths and ornaments, learning about way of life in time period

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter



If You Go

  • What: Christmas at Fort Vancouver.
  • Where: 1001 E. Fifth St., Vancouver.
  • When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
  • Cost: $5 for those 16 and older; 15 and younger are free.

An event described as one of the Top 10 Christmas celebrations in the National Park Service takes place Saturday at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Christmas at Fort Vancouver will enable visitors to experience the sights and sounds of the 1840s Victorian-era winter holiday season. Most of the activities will be inside the reconstructed stockade (regular entry fees apply), but there also will be events at other spots on the historic site.

In 2015, Christmas at Fort Vancouver appeared on a USA Today list of the 10 best Christmas celebrations in the park service. It was compiled by Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the nonprofit National Park Foundation.

At Saturday’s celebration, visitors will hear caroling by the Madrigal Singers as they sip warm holiday wassail.

Hands-on activities include craft-making; the park will provide materials families can use to make wooden toy tops, wreaths, tassels, and potpourri ornaments for their own holiday decorations or to give as presents.

Re-enactors will demonstrate aspects of life in the Hudson’s Bay Company era, including cooking, blacksmithing, black powder shooting, dancing and story-telling.

“For the diverse fur trade community that lived here in the 1840s, the holidays were a time to come together and celebrate,” Chief Ranger Bob Cromwell said in a news release. “We hope that everyone who comes to Christmas at Fort Vancouver will not just learn about history, but will also find new ways to celebrate this season of togetherness.”

Bird celebration

In conjunction with activities at the reconstructed fort, a Celebration of Birds will be hosted by the Friends of Fort Vancouver at the Visitor Center, 1501 E. Evergreen Blvd. Featured artist Joy Pomaika’i Hou’oli O’Hearn will demonstrate the traditions and techniques of Hawaiian feather art from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

There also will be free children’s activities. Children will be able to build and take home birdhouses (supplies limited) from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Admission to the Visitor Center as well as Pearson Air Museum, 1115 E. Fifth St., is free.

Also, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is selling personal-use Christmas tree cutting permits at all forest offices, including the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center. Permits are $5; there is a limit of five permits per household. Permits include a map of cutting areas and special instruction for cutting Christmas trees in the national forest.

As part of the national Every Kid in a Park initiative, all fourth-graders are eligible for a free national forest Christmas tree permit. For information, call the Forest Service at 360-891-5001.