The man who launched a still-thriving church and a town that bear his stamp of Christian devotion will bring yuletide greetings to those visiting a mid-1800s Hope on Friday.

The late Rev. Martin Hauser, looking a lot like the Rev. Andy Kilps, will come back to life with seven other top town figures through the ages at the annual Christmas of Yesteryear celebration on the historic Hope Town Square.

Kilps, pastor the past two years at the Hope Moravian Church that missionary Hauser founded in 1830, loves the chance to build awareness of the clergyman’s passion.

“He certainly would feel honored that we still would look back at the origins of our town that he founded,” Kilps said.

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Historical foundations represent only part of Christmas of Yesteryear, a free event launched in 2003 that now attracts about 1,000 people. Part of it also centers on good, old-fashioned fun.

Strolling carolers ensure it is anything but a silent night. Carriage rides slow the holiday rush to a more measured cadence. A live nativity featuring farm animals brings a rustic remembrance of a different kind of hope.

In the gazebo, free gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate stir sweet recollections of childhood. Plus, local stores stay open late.

All of the activities are the brainchild of the leaders at Hope’s Yellow Trail Museum, which also attracts more than 200 children each year during Christmas of Yesteryear with a simple cookie-decoration time.

Museum volunteer Barb Johnson said the down-to-earth fun allows youngsters to enjoy themselves without parents having to fret about a mess.

“Some of the children are as young as maybe a year old, but they still get to throw on a few sprinkles,” Johnson said. “And then we have teenagers who do this who don’t really feel it’s the Christmas season until they get to decorate cookies.”

The museum also hosts a sizable bake sale, which raises funds for its work.

Young Hauser Historian students are writing and presenting holiday skits. One student also is reading Clement Moore’s classic poem, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Another group is highlighting area holiday customs such as Moravian stars and sugar cakes.

Also, Hope actor Pete Law will be presenting his one-man show, “A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show,” at 5:30 and 7 p.m. at Willow Leaves of Hope.

Amid all this will be Santa himself, accompanied by a trusty elf, on the southeast corner of the square.

Johnson expects that the carriage rides, offered at $2 per person on a wagon, will remain as popular as ever. People had to be turned away for the rides last year.

“I think all this kind of sets a special tone (for the holidays),” Johnson said.

Doing their part to set that special tone are people such as John and Shirley Wiseman. They are members of Hope’s First Baptist Church, which stages the live nativity. The Wisemans supply the calves for the scene that seems to delight youngsters and adults alike.

“We’re always happy to help and to spread the Christmas cheer,” Shirley Wiseman said. “Some of the children don’t often get to see live farm animals. So I think they really enjoy that.

“But we hope they enjoy the whole nativity and they hear the Christmas message as well.”

Stepping into the past

What: Hope’s annual Christmas of Yesteryear

When: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Historic Hope Town Square

Purpose: Celebrate the past and the heritage of Hope, founded by Christian missionary and pastor Martin Hauser, who also served as postmaster and operator of a general store.

Activities: Shops open late; a visit from Santa and an elf; Christmas cookie decorating and a bake sale; historic costumed characters; stroller carolers and more.

Admission: Free, but with some fees, such as $2 for carriage rides.


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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.