Daytonians huddled around Deeds Carillon on Christmas Eve 1941, reeling from the recent news of Pearl Harbor. While the first Deeds Carillon concert was slated for Easter Sunday 1942, Dayton’s newest landmark made a much-needed early debut. Solace was found in the sound of beautiful carillon bells.
“The very first time people gathered at Deeds Carillon, they heard Christmas music,” says Dayton History President & CEO Brady Kress. “ ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ led the procession. It was just days after a national tragedy, and the bells united the Dayton community.”
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The impromptu 1941 Christmas Eve concert was a foreshadowing.
In the ensuing years, Deeds Carillon would become a symbol of comfort and beauty for the Dayton region — a place where citizens could gather to forget their troubles, if only for a little while. So it remains today.
Deeds Carillon is now transformed into the Carillon Tree of Light during the holiday season. The breathtaking Tree of Light — an unmistakable symbol of Christmas in the Miami Valley — signals the return of Carillon Historical Park’s month-long holiday celebration: A Carillon Christmas.
Here are 8 highlights of A Carillon Christmas:
🎅🏻 1. Jolly Old St. Nick
Visit Santa and Mrs. Claus in the Heritage Center of Dayton Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship, adjacent to the Dr. Richard and Dorothy Cummings collection of toys made in Dayton. Take a picture with Kris Kringle himself, and frame it inside one of our museum store’s magnetic Carillon Christmas picture frames.
🚂 2. All Aboard!
The Midnight Express takes visitors on a magical train ride through a winter wonderland of lights. Open from 6-9 p.m., weather permitting, the Midnight Express is $1 per person per ride. Ticketing location: James F. Dicke Family Transportation Center.
☕3. Food, food and more food
Enjoy holiday milkshakes, hot dogs, hot drinks, soft pretzels and cookies at Culp’s Christmas Café. Kettle corn, hot chocolate, coffee and other holiday treats are available at the James F. Dicke Family Transportation Center Roundhouse Café.
Inside Morris & Hetzel Bakery, costumed interpreters will be selling homemade gingerbread cookies and roasted chestnuts while teaching visitors about historic hearth cooking. And for hearty, delicious fare — including historically crafted beer and wine — look no farther than Carillon Brewing Co. (No admission is required to dine at Carillon Brewing Co).
✨4. Endless Sparkle
When BLC Entertainment completed the lighting for A Carillon Christmas, they noted there were over 15 miles of Christmas lights used to illuminate the 65-acre campus. Giant trees, iconic buildings and more are all aglow. And this doesn’t include the over 20,000 sparkling bulbs that make up the Carillon Tree of Light. It truly is a sight to see!
💌5. Press On
Use a printing press to make your own Christmas card at the nation’s only complete 1930s letterpress job shop operating in a museum.
🎄6. (Not So) Silent Night
Enjoy the delightful harmonies of our very own Victorian carolers as they spread holiday cheer throughout Carillon Historical Park. Caroling has roots in the Middle Ages, but it became popular during Christmas in the Victorian period.
🛷 7. Candy Cane Slopes
Descend through a tremendous lighting display of candy cane slides. Make sure you enjoy the spectacular view from atop the Moraine.
🛍️ 8. Shop ‘Til You Drop
Shop local during A Carillon Christmas. Carillon Historical Park’s Museum store offers numerous gift ideas for holiday shoppers, including Dayton History memberships, the Carillon Historical Park souvenir book, Birthplace of Aviation snow globes, Wright Flyer 3-D ornaments, Wright brothers and Dayton Triangles apparel, Carousel of Dayton Innovation ornaments, A Carillon Christmas magnets, and a wide selection of Dayton history books.
A train-themed store will also be available at the James F. Dicke Family Transportation Center this year. While admission is required to experience A Carillon Christmas and visit the train store, no admission is required to shop the museum store.
Want to go?
WHAT: A Carillon Christmas and the Carillon Tree of Light
WHERE: Carillon Historical Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd.
WHEN: Nov. 28–Dec. 30 (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)
ADMISSION: $10 per adult (18–59), $9 per senior (60+), $7 per child (3–17), Under 3 and Dayton History members: FREE