The Kearney Mansion buzzed on Sunday with the sounds of Victorian holiday music and children awed by funny old furniture.
Absent was the sound of cannons and Civil War-era guns that people are so used to hearing when visiting the historic museum in Kearney Park, west of Fresno.
For a month, the mansion is decorated for the holidays and the public is given a chance to see what celebrating Christmas was like in the turn-of-the-century home.
The mansion was built in 1903 as the superintendent's lodge for M. Theo Kearney, one of Fresno County's pioneering land developers and founder of California's raisin industry.
Sunday was family day with crafts in the carriage house and a visit from Santa Claus, who insisted that all good boys and girls look for a Christmas pickle in the home's 11-foot-tall tree.
German tradition calls for a pickle ornament to be hung on the tree. The first child to find it on Christmas Day receives a gift.
Elyse Watamura, 5, of Fresno found the pickle and got a candy cane.
"Maybe we should put a pickle in our tree," said her mother, Jackie Williams.
"And make people find it, or maybe a tortellini," said Elyse, whose stepfather is Italian.
Williams visited the mansion every Christmas as a child to see the rooms decorated with evergreen branches collected from the park and Victorian trees. This year, it was time to introduce her daughter to the old home.
"I've always loved historical homes," Williams said.
Elyse seemed to like it too, especially a second-floor bedroom with metal bed frame and a chair made out cow horns and skin. Most of the furniture in the house is original, including all the furnishings in the main bedroom.
Children who visited on Sunday had fun trying out the folding wooden desks in the carriage house that had a hole in the top to hold an ink well.
The Fresno Historical Society brought the seasonal event back last year after a six-year absence. The event was too much for the group's small staff to handle, said director Ruth Lang.
But the society recognized a need for educational family events and brought it back on a smaller scale.
Marcie Villalpando of Parlier brought her family to the mansion for the first time instead of fighting traffic and the crowds at the mall for a visit with Santa.
"I just wanted to do something different with them and get some history for them in a fun way," Villalpando said.
She liked the architecture of the home and was amazed that the house was still in such good condition 110 years after it was built.
Villalpando's daughter, Samara Chastine, 7, loved an upstairs bedroom with several dolls decorated for Kearney's nieces when they visited. The dolls scared Samara's older sisters.
That didn't stop Samara from declaring that "it's a cute house."
Christmas at Kearney
Where: Kearney Mansion Museum, Kearney Park
When: Guided tours 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Dec. 20, 21 and 22.
Cost: $10 adults, $8 seniors, $6 children and students, children age 3 and under free. Park entrance fee is $5 per car.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6495, email@example.com or @bonhialee on Twitter.