Christmas in Ohio: Nutcrackers, Victorian village, Nativity

By on December 13, 2017


About 13 years ago, Bob Ley and his wife drove from their hometown of Cambridge, Ohio, to see the famous Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights in nearby Wheeling, West Virginia. (Photo by marada/Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)
About 13 years ago, Bob Ley and his wife drove from their hometown of Cambridge, Ohio, to see the famous Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights in nearby Wheeling, West Virginia. (Photo by marada/Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

Six-foot-tall nutcrackers, a life-size Nativity display and a Dickens Victorian Village: These are some of the ways Ohio says “Merry Christmas!”

DICKENS VICTORIAN VILLAGE

About 13 years ago, Bob Ley and his wife drove from their hometown of Cambridge, Ohio, to see the famous Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights in nearby Wheeling, West Virginia. “It was jam-packed with cars and buses,” Ley recalled. “We started looking at license plates. Almost three-fourths of the cars had gone past Cambridge to get there. We thought, ‘What could we do to waylay them so they’d spend some time in Cambridge?”’

Ley was in the men’s clothing business and his wife was fond of English literature. They hatched the idea of turning mannequins into figures from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and other Victorian-era scenes. A local trade school built over 100 figures, artists designed the heads and faces, and, with help from other volunteers and funding from local officials and businesses, they created a Dickens Victorian Village .

More than 200 people now work on the project year-round. This year, 167 figures are displayed in 94 scenes.

Ley says they’ve had visitors from nearly every state, plus dozens of tour buses, with a third of visitors spending the night at a hotel, eating in restaurants and shopping in stores.

Characters range from Father Christmas to Scrooge and Marley from “A Christmas Carol” to Victorian-themed scenes of lamplighters and carolers. An “Imagination Station” invites visitors to have their photos taken in period costumes. The local courthouse also hosts a synchronized holiday music-and-light show. The village is open through Dec. 31.

NUTCRACKER VILLAGE

Fort Steuben is an 18th century historic site in Steubenville, Ohio. It comes alive every Christmas with the Steubenville Nutcracker Village , a display of 150 life-size nutcrackers. It’s the brainchild of a couple of local businessmen who started the tradition in 2015 as a way to draw people downtown and spur local pride while creating holiday fun. The 6-foot-tall nutcrackers are carved at Nelson Fine Art & Gifts, then customized by and for students, clubs, businesses and other local enterprises.

The nutcrackers are free to visit and on display 24 hours a day through Jan. 7. Fort Steuben Park also hosts an advent market and other events.

LIFE-SIZED NATIVITY SCENE

A life-sized Nativity display presented by an insurance company is a tradition in Columbus. State Auto Insurance Companies began displaying the Nativity figures in the 1950s. The display is shown each year outside its headquarters on the east side of downtown across the street from the art museum.

In addition to the manger scene depicting the newborn Christ child, the figures range from wise men on camels to angels to a Roman soldier. The figures are illuminated each night through Jan. 2, with choirs performing Friday and Saturday evenings until Christmas.