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Unique holiday events worth a drive

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Updated: January 7, 2013 7:13AM



Christmas and astrophysics are two topics that don’t often go together, yet these are combined in one of the interesting and unique upcoming Christmas programs in South Bend.

† “What and When was the Christmas Star? An astrophysics perspective presented by Professor Grant Mathews” is a free program offered at the University of Notre Dame Friday, Dec. 7, through Sunday, Dec. 9.

“Two thousand years ago in Bethlehem, a lot depended on the learned people who studied the heavens. At that time, people told time, directions and more by looking at the sky. Professor Mathews’ part of the program will focus on how astronomers were viewed then and what they might have seen,” explained Susan Baxmeyer of the Notre Dame Department of Physics.

Professor Mathews’ talk will be followed by the planetarium show “Season of Light,” which explores the warm and bright religious and cultural traditions which are practiced during the coldest, darkest season of the year.

“The program is in the Digital Visualization Theater, which is like a nice planetarium where the seats go back to give viewers a comfortable view of the star images projected by computers onto the 50-foot dome. The program is perfect for middle school students to adults, and even younger elementary students depending on their interest,” said Baxmeyer.

“What and When was the Christmas Star?” will be at 6 p.m. (CST) Friday and at 2 p.m. (CST) Saturday and Sunday at the Jordan Hall of Science. Baxmeyer suggests arriving early, as seating is limited, and parking by the library in the faculty parking lot, which is public parking on weekends. From there, walk south to Jordan Hall, which will be on the left. Admission is free.

† Another unique special event is the Holiday Treasure Hunt at the opulent 38-room Oliver Mansion at the Center for History in South Bend offered every Sunday in December.

“The mansion is beautifully decorated for the holidays. It has 10 Christmas trees, and 13 mantles and all the stairways decorated,” said Marilyn Thompson of the Center for History.

“Docents will lead tours of the mansion, then at places along the route, actors in period costumes will give a rhyming poem that gives a clue about a holiday decoration in the room. Visitors will get a game card at the start of the tour, and will have time to look around each room to try and figure out what the clue refers to,” explained Thompson.

She said that visitors submitting correct completed game cards will have a chance to win a prize.

Thompson recommended that those planning to attend “Christmas at the Oliver Mansion: A Holiday Treasure Hunt” call (574) 235-9664 to reserve a tour time. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $6 for youth ages 6 to 17. Tours are offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central time. Admission also includes the main museum, its current Notre Dame exhibit and the Kidsfirst Children’s Museum.

The Center for History is at 808 W. Washington St.

Thompson also recommended the special tours of the nearby historic 1885 Kizer House, and of South Bend’s West Washington’s National Historic Register Historic District taking place this weekend. In addition to visiting the Kizer House, a turreted Romanesque mansion, these tours visit five or six other buildings. Tickets for these walking tours cost $15 to $25, with children up to age 18 admitted free with a paid adult.

For more information, visit www.indianalandmarks.org and click on “tours and events.”



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