Lancaster County man creating new holiday traditions by remembering Christmas past

ELIZABETHTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- James Morrison has been helping families create Christmas memories for decades in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania as Santa's helper.

Morrison calls himself "Santa Jr." and has also come to be known over the years as "the Keeper of Christmas."

He founded the original National Christmas Center in 1998 in Paradise, Pennsylvania to preserve Christmas' past.

"It's a treasure," said Morrison. "There's really no other day like Christmas."

He says it opened with the Tudor Towne display and "we just kept adding to it."

Even though it was an annual tradition for many, it closed in 2018. But recently, David Abel stepped in to help preserve those memories.

"I had taken my children there about 25 years ago and I just fell in love with it," said Abel. "And so we got together with Jim and we've saved it."

A portion of the new center opened this season and is now located in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania on Abel's Stone Gables Estate.

"They'll just be in awe and wonder of the sights, the sounds, and the smells of Christmas," said Abel.

John Enterline is curating the display at the updated and expanded National Christmas Center, which has a section of the museum dedicated to all things Santa Claus.

"It's going to be the largest collection of the history of Christmas anywhere in the world," he said.

Visitors can see various Christmas stories brought to life.

"One of the more popular exhibits is 'A Christmas Story,'" said Enterline.

Or, take a stroll through a re-creation of 1950s Columbia, Pennsylvania, where Abel grew up.

"Before the malls, the shops in each town, they put lights up," said Morrison. "And it would all be decorated."

He says his memories of that time gone by are "so special" and he wanted future generations to be able to experience that same feeling walking by the storefronts.

There are four stores you can walk in and experience, including Woolworth's and a Sweet Shop. Abel says Morrison is "a visionary" in putting together this entire collection, calling it "amazing."

And, the National Christmas Center is giving back.

"Our mission is to donate 100% of our net profits to Brittany's Hope, which aids abandoned children worldwide," said Abel.

Abel says the center has many Nativity scenes on display, highlighting for visitors the real reason for the season - "the celebration of the birth of Christ."

"I want people to keep Christmas in their hearts," says Morrison. "It's magic."

For more information:
National Christmas Center
Stone Gables Estate
Brittany's Hope
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