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Danville museum expands winter exhibit with 'Holidays in the Valley'

Display now open at Museum of the San Ramon Valley

The iconic lion's head is one distinctive symbol of Chinese New Year showcased at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley through Jan. 2. (Image courtesy of Museum of John Keenan)

The Museum of the San Ramon Valley is seeking to start a new tradition of branching out to explore the vast number of other winter holidays in this year's winter exhibit, which centers Chinese New Year alongside local history and traditions surrounding Christmas in the region.

"We wanted to celebrate holidays in the valley, not so much just Christmas," said museum spokesperson John Keenan. "We went with Chinese New Year for one, because we had a pretty good relationship with the Chinese American School here in the San Ramon Valley, and they had a lot of cool stuff for us to look at and use."

The 'Holidays in the Valley' exhibit showcases Christmas artifacts and antiques, such as children's toys and snow globes, alongside Chinese New Year artifacts. (Image courtesy of John Keenan)

Keenan added that Chinese New Year was a natural fit to showcase in this year's "Holidays of the Valley" exhibit, which has served as an expansion of the museum's "Christmas Memories" themed exhibits in the past.

With a large Chinese community in the area historically and in the present day, as well as high profile Chinese New Year events in San Francisco, and smaller celebrations throughout the East Bay and San Ramon Valley, Keenan said that the holiday and its accompanying traditions were already familiar locally.

In the current exhibit, Keenan said the goal was to offer San Ramon Valley residents ways of more deeply understanding Chinese New Year traditions, by featuring a visual display of associated artifacts to view up close, and insight into their history and significance.

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In addition to Chinese New Year displays, the museum is also showcasing artifacts from local history associated with Christmas traditions. One notable local figure and tradition featured in the exhibit is Father Christmas, a distinctly local figure separate from Santa Claus who functions as a staple at Danville's annual Lighting of the Old Oak Tree.

Keenan said that although the man who'd originally established the tradition and acted in the role had left Danville decades ago, he and other residents still had memories of him, and the original Father Christmas outfit would be on display in the exhibit.

"He moved to New Mexico, and left because Danville was getting too big, and this was probably 25 years ago," Keenan said. "So he was sort of the original, from my period of living here, and that was a big deal. Father Christmas came and he lit the tree, and kids never asked that it wasn't Santa."

Another long standing tradition at the museum that is returning this year is the Polar Express, a winter-themed model train that Keenan said has been displayed at the museum annually for as long as he can remember.

The "Holidays of the Valley" exhibit opened on Nov. 26, and is set to run at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley at 205 Railroad Avenue in Danville through Jan. 2.

The museum is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 1-3 p.m., from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, and from noon to 3 p.m. on Sundays. More information is available here.

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Danville museum expands winter exhibit with 'Holidays in the Valley'

Display now open at Museum of the San Ramon Valley

by / Danville San Ramon

Uploaded: Wed, Dec 1, 2021, 9:51 pm

The Museum of the San Ramon Valley is seeking to start a new tradition of branching out to explore the vast number of other winter holidays in this year's winter exhibit, which centers Chinese New Year alongside local history and traditions surrounding Christmas in the region.

"We wanted to celebrate holidays in the valley, not so much just Christmas," said museum spokesperson John Keenan. "We went with Chinese New Year for one, because we had a pretty good relationship with the Chinese American School here in the San Ramon Valley, and they had a lot of cool stuff for us to look at and use."

Keenan added that Chinese New Year was a natural fit to showcase in this year's "Holidays of the Valley" exhibit, which has served as an expansion of the museum's "Christmas Memories" themed exhibits in the past.

With a large Chinese community in the area historically and in the present day, as well as high profile Chinese New Year events in San Francisco, and smaller celebrations throughout the East Bay and San Ramon Valley, Keenan said that the holiday and its accompanying traditions were already familiar locally.

In the current exhibit, Keenan said the goal was to offer San Ramon Valley residents ways of more deeply understanding Chinese New Year traditions, by featuring a visual display of associated artifacts to view up close, and insight into their history and significance.

In addition to Chinese New Year displays, the museum is also showcasing artifacts from local history associated with Christmas traditions. One notable local figure and tradition featured in the exhibit is Father Christmas, a distinctly local figure separate from Santa Claus who functions as a staple at Danville's annual Lighting of the Old Oak Tree.

Keenan said that although the man who'd originally established the tradition and acted in the role had left Danville decades ago, he and other residents still had memories of him, and the original Father Christmas outfit would be on display in the exhibit.

"He moved to New Mexico, and left because Danville was getting too big, and this was probably 25 years ago," Keenan said. "So he was sort of the original, from my period of living here, and that was a big deal. Father Christmas came and he lit the tree, and kids never asked that it wasn't Santa."

Another long standing tradition at the museum that is returning this year is the Polar Express, a winter-themed model train that Keenan said has been displayed at the museum annually for as long as he can remember.

The "Holidays of the Valley" exhibit opened on Nov. 26, and is set to run at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley at 205 Railroad Avenue in Danville through Jan. 2.

The museum is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 1-3 p.m., from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, and from noon to 3 p.m. on Sundays. More information is available here.

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