Dinner is an essential part of any Christmas celebration and at Mount Vernon, there were no exceptions. Known for setting an appetizing table, Martha Washington kept extremely busy preparing for an onslaught of guests during the holiday season.
While there are no descriptions of a specific Christmas dinner at Mount Vernon and few references to foods associated with the season, descriptions written by visitors have been examined over the years.
It was Mrs. Washington's habit before or after breakfast to start planning the meals for the day, and one description by her grandson reported that she "...gave orders for dinner," at this time, "appointing certain provisions, a pair of ducks, a goose or a turkey to be laid by, and to be put down in case of the arrival of company; a very necessary provision in that hospitable mansion.” Martha really pulled out the stops during the holidays.
Especially before the Revolution, the Washingtons often visited with close friends on or about the sixth of January (Twelfth Night). Martha Washington would have prepared a specially decorated “great cake” for the Twelfth Night. Among Martha Washington's papers is a recipe for this great cake, copied for her by a granddaughter, Martha Custis. This rich fruit-filled pastry was a custom staple for Twelfth Night festivities. Martha's great cake