George and Martha Washington

Washington Tree
click photo to enlarge


George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. There was no White House at that time so the Washingtons lived in houses that were "borrowed" as Presidential homes, first in New York City and later in Philadelphia.

At a time when Christmas was still quite controversial in a new nation, Martha Washington's holiday receptions were stiff and regal affairs, quite befitting the dignity of the office of President of the United States and invitations were much desired by the local gentry. 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!

Since there were no decorated trees in an official White House when George Washington was President, this tree in our exhibit includes decorations that could easily have been created and used during the holidays spent at the Washington's home in Mt. Vernon. Although not everyone celebrated Christmas in the colonies, 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. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the Christmas of 1777, spent by General Washington and his troops at Valley Forge where dinner was little more than cabbage, turnips, and potatoes.



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