November 9, 2022

Morven’s Annual Festival of Trees Event Brings in New Audiences

A HOLIDAY TRADITION: A tree from last year’s annual Festival of Trees at Morven Museum & Garden, where galleries, mantels, and porches are decorated by local groups. This year’s festival begins on November 16.

By Anne Levin

Ever since Morven opened as Morven Museum & Garden in 2004, the Festival of Trees has been an annual Princeton holiday event. This year’s installation, which turns the historic home’s galleries into showcases for holiday décor by local businesses, garden clubs, and nonprofits, begins Wednesday, November 16 and remains open to the public through January 8.

Holiday-themed exhibits, concerts, ballets, and theatrical performances tend to attract a broader audience than events held throughout the year — think The Messiah, The Nutcracker, and A Christmas Carol. Morven fits that description, said the museum’s Executive Director Jill Barry.

“What’s interesting is we converted systems about a year ago, and we can now track behavior a lot better,” Barry said this week. “During the Festival of Trees, Morven looks different from other times of the year. Not only are we decorated for the holidays, but we are seeing more family groups. And these groups are bigger.”

Advance bookings for the Festival of Trees have increased this year. “People specifically plan to come to this, and they do it in advance, which is exciting for us,” said Barry. “And we have way more non-members coming to Morven during the Festival of Trees than other times of the year.”

This year’s decorators include American Repertory Ballet, Highbar Boutique, Neshanic Garden Club, Lawrenceville Main Street/The Landscape Committee, Mount Laurel Garden Club, Nottingham Garden Club, Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad, Junior League of Greater Princeton, Princeton Garden Theatre, Princeton Mobile Food Pantry, Princeton Ski & Sail Club, Princeton University Press, SAVE – A Friend to Homeless Animals, Stony Brook Garden Club, The Garden Club of Princeton, the Present Day Club, and the West Trenton Garden Club.

“We have old favorites, but also a lot of new decorators this year,” said Barry. “SAVE is decorating a tree, and we’re talking about having them bring the dogs over one day. We’re looking at ways to connect when it’s a group like that. It feels like a good crossover moment.”

Trees are located in the galleries, where space allows, which gives viewers a glimpse of permanent and temporary exhibits, like the current “Ma Bell: The Mother of Invention in New Jersey.” Mantels are decorated in the rooms that have fireplaces.

The annual Festival of Trees Winter Garden Party is Thursday, December 1 at 6 p.m. The expansive backyard garden will be transformed into a winter landscape with fire pits and twinkling lights. “We made that concession to have it outside during the pandemic. But it turns out everybody loves being outside, so we’re keeping it that way,” said Barry. The event is a benefit, and tickets are $175. RSVP by November 23.

Tickets for the Festival of Trees are $8-$10 (free for children up to age six, and Morven members). It will be open Wednesdays-Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., plus Mondays December 5 and 12 (when Drumthwacket’s Holiday Open House is scheduled). Visit for details and more information.

“Since we were a house for so long before becoming a museum, it’s nice to be a part of something that gets so many people from within and without the community to take part,” said Barry. “Come for the trees, and see our museum while you’re here. We love to hear people say things like, ‘I came for this festival, but I had no idea what else was here.’ And we hear that a lot.”