Revolutionary War Historical Article
Christmas at Mount Vernon
by Donald N. Moran
Editor's Note: This article was reprinted from the December 2001 Edition of The Liberty Tree Newsletter
It is unfortunate that even with the massive collection of letters and writings of George Washington we are unable to find a definitive description of Christmas at Mount Vernon (shown below).
From numerous bits and pieces of information we know that the General did consider it an important holiday. Many of the surviving letters written around Christmas reference it; i.e. "2 days before Christmas" or "1 arrived home the day before Christmas".
His extensive accounting books reference his Christmas expenses. One would think that Martha Washington would have left some records of the planning of Christmas celebrations, but all we were able to find was a reference stating: "A Christmas party was given by the Washingtons for members of Congress on Christmas Day, 1795 at which a bountiful feast was served to the guests, all men with the exception of the First Lady!" Another reference stated "The festivities at the Mount Vernon plantation in Virginia would start at daybreak with a Christmas fox hunt. It was followed by a hearty mid-day feast that included "Christmas pie," dancing, music, and visiting that sometimes did not end for a solid week".
On December 26th, 1786, General Washington wrote to his former aide-de-camp and friend, Colonel David Humphreys, stating: "Altho' I lament the effect, I am pleased at the cause which has deprived us of the pleasure of your aid in the attack of Christmas pies: we had one yesterday on which all the company, tho' pretty numerous, were hardly able to make an impression. Mrs. Washington and George [Lewis], and his wife (Mr. Lear I had occasion to send to the Western Country) join in affections. regards for you, and with sentiments, &c George Washington."
From these scant references, we know that Christmas was a special holiday for George and Martha Washington.