The Women's Club of Odessa began its annual holiday event in 1964. Since then, it has grown from a few hundred visitors to more than a thousand, who have a penchant for garland-draped doorways, twinkling lights and vintage embellishments

This Saturday, more than a dozen historic homes and buildings in Odessa, decorated for the holidays, will be open to the public for “Christmas in Odessa” tours and performances.

The event turns 50 this year but, in case you've never been, here are seven things to know about the annual event:

1. What is “Christmas in Odessa?”

The annual event, which began in 1964 is a tour of a dozen (or, sometimes more) historic homes and buildings in Odessa. Each location is decorated from top to bottom for the holidays and many include performances or docents in period costumes.

2. How does the tour work?

Each ticket-holder is given a map of the area that also contains descriptions of each location. Patrons pick a starting point, walk to that place and get in line.

Tickets can be bought in advance for $15 at Hatton’s Watch and Repair in Middletown or at the Historic Odessa Foundation’s Visitor’s Center. Tickets can also be purchased the day of the event for $20 at the “Old Academy Building,” located at the intersection of 4th St. and Main St.

With so many years behind them, the Women’s Club of Odessa now annually sees tour buses, church groups and individuals with a love for garland-draped doorways, twinkling lights and vintage embellishments

3 Beyond the tour

The tour itself requires a ticket but there are also more than a dozen performances scheduled for the same day which are free and open to the public, including carols by the First State Chorale, traditional hymns played on the antique church organ at Old Saint Paul’s Church as well as a performance by the First State Bell Ringers.

The day also includes an antique sale at the Odessa Fire House and a craft shop at the Appoquinimink Training Center

4. Bring your Christmas cards

Every year, a commemorative postmark is created especially for the event. Last year’s version was created by R.J. Reynolds and showed Cantwells Tavern. This year’s adaptation has not been revealed yet been revealed but tourists and locals alike always have one month to take advantage of the post mark. This year’s deadline is Wednesday, Jan. 7.  

5. Christmas college wishes granted  

For the past two years, the organization has been able to give out at least $10,000 in scholarship money. Last year, event co-chair Mary Homan said that they’d be able to “give out five $2,000 scholarships” alongside several other charity commitments. A good bit of the money raised also goes to the maintenance of Old St. Paul’s Church

“The first scholarship we gave out was for $100,” event co-chair and longtime Odessa resident Jean Hatton explained in 2013. “Back then, we saw a shortage of teachers and nurses and our purpose was to encourage more women into that.”

6. Who can apply for a Women’s Club of Odessa scholarship?

The scholarships no longer require students to be teachers or nurses. Now, any student with an affiliation to the Appoquinimink School District can apply.

7. Planning for another 50 years

The Monday following the event, the Women’s Club will convene over breakfast to go over the good, the bad and the best tinsel-covered memories of this year’s event. Then, they’ll immediately begin planning for next year.

Homan explained last year that they group thinks about “Christmas in Odessa” all year long and that they’re almost always in planning mode. At the time, she said, “it’s important to us because the whole objective is to raise scholarship money. The better job we do, the more money we can raise.”