For many people living in 19th century Savannah, the holiday festivities didn't begin until after Christmas.

New Year's was their time to celebrate. From Dec. 26-30, visitors to the Davenport House Museum will experience an early 19th century New Year's feast and celebration, including some dances that might have been enjoyed at the party.

"We'll have people in costume," says Jamie Credle, director of the museum. "We'll hold hands and sing 'Auld Lang Syne.'

"Upstairs, visitors will see an uncle and his niece who have discovered a newspaper in a package they received from Troy, N.Y., with a story about St. Nick," she says. "They have discovered the story for the first time and are acting it out.

"They'll talk about this elf guy who comes down the chimney. After the last evening performance, we'll do our 19th century dance demonstration."

The dancers have been performing together for about two years, Credle says.

"It's a festive event for families or visitors who want a true authentic taste of that time," she says. "It's an authentic feel for Savannah."

Guests can enter the house between 6-8 p.m. The theme is "In the Spirit of Mutual Congratulations, of Feasting and Merriment" and the dining room table is set for the New Year's feast.

This year, the staff did research on side dishes that would have been served in the 1820s era.

"Everybody likes the side dishes better," Credle says. "Some of the recipes we found are for sweet potato pudding, mince pie, macaroni and lots of pickled stuff - oysters, onions, parsnips - that we'd almost gag at today."

Historic newspapers were studied for further information.

"We found one newspaper with ads for New Year and Christmas gifts that were placed by a bookseller," Credle says. "That type of information will be sprinkled into our interpretation."

The Davenports were Presbyterians of Scottish descent.

"Even today, New Year's is celebrated with more frivolity than Christmas in Scotland," Credle says. "The First Footers were the first people through the threshold on New Year's Day.

"Punch was always a popular topic in Savannah. They did waltzing and country dancing, and of course, had a feast.

"There was a lack of gift giving," she says. "If there were gifts, they were a sincere demonstration of love."

The warmth of the fireplace also will be noted during the interpretation.

"And the people who made the house work," Credle says, "The holidays weren't holidays for the people who had to be here, which is so hard to talk about."

All decorations are made from natural sources.

"One of our resources says the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians didn't decorate their homes for Christmas," Credle says. "We get around that by decorating for New Year's with evergreens and a holiday centerpiece of fruit, magnolia leaves and a pineapple at the top.

"We've also got blankets out. The family gathered around the fire to be together as a family. In one of the bedrooms, they could have cooked in the room," she says. "They might have had tea together."

The entire experience lasts about 50 minutes. Guests should arrive no later than 8 p.m. to have a complete experience, Credle says.

Reservations can be made online, by phone or in person. They are recommended to ensure the groups are the proper size to best enjoy the evening.

Topics will include the meaning of the season, feasting, the Scottish influence on the family, festive attire or the day, treatment of household slaves during the holiday time and more.

Light refreshments will be served and period music will be performed. The performance requires that guests be able to walk up and down stairs and maneuver in the candlelit rooms.

In all the years the New Year's program has been presented at the Davenport House, there is one moment that always moves visitors, Credle says.

"It's when people join hands and sing 'Auld Lang Syne,'" she says. "We hope people will have that one authentic moment.

"We hope they get a sense or a flash of authenticity. It's also about remembering after opening all the gifts of having survived another year and having a special moment together. One thing people have done throughout time is sharing a meal and being together."

The program is as popular with the staff as it is with visitors.

"Some of the docents have made this part of their own Christmas tradition," Credle says. "We incorporate young people into what we're doing and they are beautiful singers and dancers.

"We have college students coming back who continue to incorporate this and share their time with the Davenport. Everyone is usually in a good mood, and are wanting to share with the ones they're with, and that's contagious."

Jeff Freeman, assistant director of the Davenport House, has a new military uniform he'll be wearing for the dancing.

"People are investing in some pretty impressive costumes," Credle says. "We just want to share the Davenport with the people.

"There are going to be people in town who will be wanting something early to do that has a very Christmasy feel," she says. "I think people who come over and tour the house and watch the dancers perform will get an experience they will cherish."