The annual Fort Pulaski Candle Lantern Tour has become a Christmas tradition for many Savannahians.

"We are recreating an historical event from the fort from December 1861, when the Confederate soldiers in the fort called it a 'nog party,'" says lead park ranger Mike Weinstein. "This actually happened."

The staff of the national monument, operated by the U.S. National Park Service, invites the citizens of Savannah to the party.

"Our modern version is telling the visitors we're going to visit the soldiers at the fort," Weinstein says. "We do six tours on Friday night and six tours on Saturday night, with the first at 6 p.m. and the last at 8:30 p.m."

The tours start one half-hour apart and last about 45 minutes each. Reservations are required because space is limited.

"It's $10 per ticket," Weinstein says. "Children under 15 are admitted free, but they still need a reservation."

When visitors arrive, they should to the Visitor's Center, a building that is separate from the fort itself.

"We'll set up a tour for them," Weinstein says. "When we take them out of the Visitors Center to the fort, we try to convey them back in time to 1861.

"Everything is lit with lantern light or candlelight. We'll have living historians here.

"They'll portray the soldiers of the fort," he says. "We'll take visitors through four or five rooms."

The tours includes areas visitors won't otherwise see.

"These are the rooms on the immediate left," Weinstein says. "The officers' quarters is not usually open to the public.

"We'll have a Civil War-era band playing in one of the rooms. We'll do a little bit of narration and everyone will get cookies and cider.

"Then we'll take them into the next room and have singers dressed in period clothing and have a group sing-along," he says. "There will be a Christmas tree decorated in 19th-century style."

The tour will also go into the fort's infirmary.

"The surgeon will speak to the group and tell them about his role at the fort," Weinstein says. "In the last room, the commanding officer and colonel will welcome the guests."

Today the fort is a brief car ride from downtown.

"It was an isolated and remote place in 1861," Weinstein says. "It was at least an hour and a half trip from downtown. However, a trip on a steamboat was a quick trip."

The visitors will be welcomed with open arms as guests would have been when they visited the lonely soldiers.

"We'll bring them on the parade ground of the fort and have a musket firing and finish with the firing of the cannon," Weinstein says. "We've been doing this for years and years.

"We all enjoy it. We like it because it's historically correct. We're being true to our mission, but not boring or dry.

"This fits in perfectly with the Christmas season," he says. "These are the only days we do it."