How Mount Vernon Decorates for Christmas

A visit to Mount Vernon begins in the Ford Orientation Center, and during the holidays this space is decorated with a dozen Christmas trees. As you walk into the historic area, Aladdin greets you on the 12-acre field and lanterns line the paths.

You may notice that there is no greenery in the Mansion like we see in modern homes. In the 18th century, Christmas was primarily a religious holiday marked by parties and visits from friends and relatives. There was little decoration. Rather, Americans expressed their holiday spirit through the abundance of their tables and increased prayer and contemplation.

Servants' Hall

The holiday season began a few days before Christmas and lasted until Twelfth Night, or the Epiphany. George and Martha Washington frequently hosted close friends and relatives at Mount Vernon, often for several days at a time. Visiting white servants stayed in the Servants' Hall where they played cards and drank. 

Blue Room

During the busy holiday season, it was likely that all available space was used to accommodate visitors. Molly and Caroline, the two enslaved chamber maids, would have prepared the Blue Room to house guests. They typically brought the bed curtains and linens out of storage and assembled the bed only when a guest used it.

Lafayette Chamber

While at Mount Vernon, guests were encouraged to make themselves at home and take part in the seasonal activities enjoyed by the Washingtons. George Washington Parke Custis remembered "books and papers were offered for their [guests] amusement; they were requested to take good care of themselves..." Another visitor wrote, "Your inducement is held to bring you into the general society in the drawing room, or at the table, it rests with yourself to be served or not with every thing in your own chamber..." In this bedroom, the scenario shows one gentleman retiring with his reading by the fire, while his wife has just returned from a stroll in the gardens.

Washington's Bedroom

According to Nelly Custis Lewis, Martha Washington typically spent the time between 9 and 10am in her room "for an hour of meditation reading & prayer and that hour no one was ever allowed o interfere wtih." She also began her day by preparing the household's schedule and providing instruction on the daily tasks.

During this season, a heavy wool bed rug provided extra warmth during the winter months.

Kitchen

As part of the Yuletide celebrations, Martha arranged for a type of fruited cake known as a "Great Cake" to be baked and served as a dessert on the last of the twelve days of Christmas. The scenario in the kitchen shows flour, sugar, butter, and eggs that were used in the recipe

Nathan and Lucy, two enslaved cooks at Mount Vernon, likely gathered the ingredients and baked the cake in a medium oven for five and a half hours. This dessert was a true delicacy during the holidays.

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Christmas at Mount Vernon

We're open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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