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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid