News / USA

Home of First US President Hosts Historic Christmas

A woman playing the part of Martha Washington talks to visitors at Mt. Vernon.
A woman playing the part of Martha Washington talks to visitors at Mt. Vernon.

Multimedia

Deborah Block

The Mount Vernon Estate in the southern U.S. state of Virginia is one of the most beloved historical landmarks in the United States.  Every year, about one million people visit the home of America's first president, George Washington, who led the country from 1789 to 1797.  

The house and museum on the grounds are now decorated for Christmas.  In addition to enjoying the decorations, visitors can also see a camel and hear stories about what Christmas was like at Mount Vernon in the 18th century.

The museum where visitors begin their tour of Mount Vernon is decorated with Christmas trees, with picture ornaments of American presidents, including Barack Obama.

However, Christmas trees would not have been found in Mount Vernon during the late 1700s since they only became popular in the US during the next century.  

Melissa Wood, spokesperson for Mount Vernon, says President Washington's mansion on the plantation was sparsely decorated. "There was greenery inside the mansion but that was probably the extent of the decorations," she said.

The holiday was a festive occasion, and friends and family of President Washington and his wife Martha, would gather at Mount Vernon. "Celebrations would start on Christmas Day, ending on the 12th night, which was really the big celebration, and on that night Martha Washington would make her great cake.  We still have this recipe today, and we actually hand it out to visitors during our holiday events," she said.

But Christmas in those days was mostly a religious holiday.   A woman who portrays Mrs. Washington at Mount Vernon talks about what Christmas was probably like. "We observed the 12 days of Christmas beginning with being well-churched on Christmas Day.  We usually fasted and prayed most of Christmas Day.  But my little brothers, on the plantation, they loved to shoot in the Christmas.  They'd go out at midnight and shoot off the guns to announce the savior's birth," she said.

One Christmas, President Washington brought a camel to Mount Vernon for his guests to enjoy.  So this Christmas season, Mount Vernon once again has a camel - from a farm in Virginia.  

Another favorite activity on the plantation was making chocolate from cocoa beans. Tim Larner gave a demonstration, saying, "It was not a candy.  It was more a drink.  So you would have your bars here, and then you would grate them down into powdered chocolate, and make a hot chocolate out of it.  It's a very thick, a very stimulating drink, which is actually why it was not advisable for children back in the 18th century."

Christmas was a happy time at Mount Vernon, with friends and family sharing food and good times - at least one thing about Christmas that is still the same in the United States more than 200 years later.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid