A visit to one of Fairfield County’s many historic house museums is an inspiring experience any time of year — the chance to be steeped in the past and ponder on what life for early settlers was like — but it’s even more enjoyable in December, when most places are decorated for the holidays.
The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion, 295 West Avenue, Norwalk, is a standout example of a Second Empire-style country house. It was built in 1864-68 by financier and railroad banking tycoon LeGrand Lockwood. At its holiday open house Sunday, Dec. 10, from noon to 4, $5 admission, visitors can enjoy the house and partake in family-friendly entertainment with dance and choral youth performances, live music, and an appearance by Santa Claus and his elves. The mansion’s Victorian holiday exhibit, a display illustrating how holiday traditions evolved in the Victorian era in America, is on view until Jan. 7. Small tabletop trees offer edibles and handmade ornaments and lavishly embellished trees reach nearly from floor to ceiling. lockwoodmathewsmansion.com
The New Canaan Historical Society is having its first-ever eggnog and caroling event Sunday, Dec. 3, from 3 to 5 at its main campus at 13 Oenoke Ridge, New Canaan, including the Town House, which was built in 1825 and hosted the town’s government offices until 1864. Besides serving as the society’s headquarters today and offering research space, the house includes exhibition and gallery spaces with art, craft and costume displays. Especially noteworthy is the second-floor Costume Museum that has a choice collection of antique clothing and accessories, which is exhibited periodically. nchistory.org
The cornerstone of the Darien Historical Society’s museum is the 1736 Bates-Scofield Home, which details life as it was in the Colonial and early American period. Built around a massive central chimney with a massive fireplace and beehive oven, the house is an original Darien farmhouse restored to its 18th-Century origins. The society manages a large collection of historic costumes and accessories dating from the mid-18th Century to the present. Among its December events, the society presents “A Colonial Christmas” on Friday, Dec. 1, from 7 to 9 p.m. The halls at the Bates-Scofield house will be decked to celebrate the holidays in historical style. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, $30 members, $45 non-members, register at www.darienhistorical.org or 203-655-9233. A crafter-noon event will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 6, from 1 to 4 p.m.; children may decorate a wreath or make an ornament, $15, ages 4-12. Drop in during session but pre-register at 203-984-1798. Santa will visit Friday, Dec. 8, 2 to 4 p.m., to hear Christmas wishes and for photo ops. Free, but donations gratefully accepted. darienhistorical.org
The social hub of Ridgefield for more than 300 years, Keeler Tavern, 132 Main Street, will host several holiday events, including its traditional fund-raising Christmas luncheons, Dec. 5 to Dec. 9, two seatings daily at 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m., registration required. A holiday art show in the Carriage Barn features local artists, Dec. 5 to Dec. 9, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., artists’ reception Dec. 3, 3 to 6 p.m., free. During Ridgefield’s Holiday Stroll, the Keeler will host “Christmas at the Tavern,” Dec. 1, 5 to 9 p.m. The tavern will be festively decorated for this free family event. keelertavernmuseum.org
The Wilton Historical Society museum complex (Historic District #5), 224 Danbury Road, Wilton, offers much to see, including the Betts-Sturgis-Blackmar House built on-site circa 1740; the circa 1840 Burt Barn Gallery; the Sloan-Raymond-Fitch House, built circa 1770; the circa 1860 Abbott Barn, the circa 1890 Blacksmith Shop, and a circa 1895 two-seat privy. Visitors may tour the historic houses, all dressed for the holidays. See the extensive tool collection in the Abbott Barn, and stroll in the 1750 Colonial herb garden. It will host its annual Great Trains Holiday Exhibit until Jan. 15. For young visitors, Santa will be visiting Saturday, Dec. 9, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. wiltonhistorical.org
Several historical societies will host a holiday open house Sunday, Dec. 3, at their historic buildings, including the Trumbull Historical Society from 2 to 4 p.m. at 1856 Huntington Tpk., Trumbull, and the Redding Historical Society, 43 Lonetown Road, Redding, from 1 to 4 p.m. trumbullhistory.org or reddingcthistoricalsociety.org/events
A popular area destination is the Hill-Stead Museum, 35 Mountain Road, Farmington. The former Pope family mansion attracts many visitors this time of year with its “Celebrate the Holidays,” where the mansion holiday décor includes thematic trees and vivid greens as well as lots of sparkle. The event runs now through Jan. 7 (except Sundays and Mondays). The sprawling Colonial Revivalesque home was designed by Theodate Pope Riddle, her first complete architectural project. The home was modeled after the New England vernacular of a connected farmhouse and barn. hillstead.org