Holidays

“I keept Christmas at home this year”

Young Anna Green Winslow, whose parents lived in Nova Scotia, was being schooled in Boston and living with her aunt. In these excerpts she describes the weather on Christmas Eve 1771, how she spent Christmas itself, as well as January 1.

Decr 24th.— … today is by far the coldest we have had since I have been in New England. (N.B. All run that are abroad.) Last sabbath being rainy I went to & from meeting in Mr. Soley’s chaise. … Every drop that fell froze. … The walking is so slippery & the air so cold, that aunt chuses to have me for her scoller [scholar] these two days. And … tomorrow will be a holiday, so the pope and his associates have ordained. … *

Decr 27th.—This day, the extremity of the cold is somewhat abated. I keept Christmas at home this year & did a very good day’s work. …

1st Jany 1772—I wish my Papa, Mama, brother John Henry, & cousin Avery & all the rest of my acquaintance … a Happy New Year. I have bestow’d no new year’s gift as yet.** But have received one very handsome one … [a book]. In nice Guilt and flowers covers. This afternoon being a holiday I am going to pay my compliments in Sudbury Street.

* Anna’s remarks reflect the Puritan dislike for Christmas.
** Gift-giving, if it prevailed at all in Puritan New England, took place on New Year’s Day.
For another excerpt from Anna’s journal, click here.

These excerpts are from a reprint of The Diary of Anna Green Winslow—A Boston School Girl of 1771, edited by Alice Morse Earle (Bedford, Massachusetts: Applewood Books, originally in 1894), pages 9-10, 13. The image is of a miniature owned by Elizabeth C. Trott, Niagara Falls, New York.

Holiday Entertainments at Mount Vernon

Now that December is here it’s time to look into some holiday entertainments that are not only timely but informative. Depend on Mount Vernon to present an array of interesting seasonal programs. Plan a visit around those that appeal.

On view until the end of December is a splendid gingerbread replica of the mansion. Including animals in marzipan!

Candlelight tours scheduled throughout the month allow visitors to spend a few hours in the 18th century: visiting the kitchen where servants prepare holiday fare, admiring the dining table laid with beautiful china and traditional comestibles, mixing with costumed dancers and interpreters in the ballroom. There’s no better way to muster up some holiday spirit.

If I could make the trip I would attend a chocolate making demonstration (December 3-6). I never really appreciated the many steps involved in producing the chocolate that is the basis of that wonderful hot drink often served for breakfast back then. Enjoy a spell of spirited music with the fife and drum.

Perhaps the most unexpected and delightful event is a visit with Aladdin the camel. In 1787, George Washington paid 18 shillings to bring a camel to Mount Vernon for the entertainment and delight of his guests and family. Today visitors can hear about his fascination with exotic animals and learn a few facts about camels.

If you can’t visit Mount Vernon do at least visit the online site, take a virtual tour, and enjoy the videos that accompany the holiday offerings.

posted December 2nd, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Christmas,Food,Holidays,Mount Vernon,Washington, George

Marking the Season

Following the custom during the holidays in 18th century America I convey to all my readers “the compliments the season.”

posted December 22nd, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Holidays

“Rout that Impious Army”

MARY WHITE MORRIS wrote again from Aberdeen, Maryland (see previous post), where she had fled with her children against the expected advance by the British on Philadelphia in the winter of 1776, to her husband Robert who had remained behind.

December the 30 [1776]Dear Mr. Morris
We had been for many Days Impatiently wishing for a Letter from you, as the News we hear from any Other Quarter is not to be Depended on, but when the Welcomed one arrived, which brought those glad Tidings [probably news of Washington’s successful attack on the Hessians on the day after Christmas], it more than Compensated, for what our late Unfortunate Curcumstances, Prepared our Minds to Expect, which was Nothing more, then our Armys being on the Defencive, and fearing least their Numbers were not even Equal to that, but Retreat as Usiall, but I hope indeed the Tide is turning, and that our Great Washington will have the Success His Virtues Deserve, and Rout that Impious Army, who from no Other Principle but that of enslaveing this Once Happy Country, have Prosecuted this Cruell War. [M]y Father was greatly, tho Agreably Affected, at such good news, and I was the Happy means of makeing many joyfull Hearts, as we had many Guests added to our large Family to Celebrate Christmas. . . .
Pray were do you Lodge, I was told at Mr. Beveridge’s Country House, for Security, if I Exact all I wish to know I’m Affraid youll write the Seldomer, but Remember, it’s the greatest Gratification I can have, till I see you. . . . Bob walkd 3 miles to School today with one of his Cousins, I take a great deal of Pains to Preserve their Learning, Anna was right about my Shifts, but my needles I left in the tea Tabel [sic] drawer, put them there Myself, intending to put them in my Pocket the last thing. . . .
your Affectionate Mary Morris

Robert Morris Collection: Henry E. Huntington Library, Lists No. 5, pages 53-55, transcribed by Louise North. [Microfilm, courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Nuxoll].

posted June 4th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Battles,Children,Education,Hessians,Holidays,Morris, Mary White,Morris, Robert,Philadelphia,Washington, George

“on the 25th early in the Morning “

Margaret Hill Morris, the eighth daughter of Dr. Richard and Deborah Moore Hill of Maryland was raised by her older sister Hannah in Philadelphia. At twenty-one, she married William Morris, Jr., a dry-goods merchant, who died in 1765, leaving her with three small children and expecting another. After struggling for some years to provide for her family, Margaret decided to move in with her sister Sarah Moore Dillwyn, wife of the Quaker preacher George Dillwyn, who lived in Green Bank, New Jersey. The house overlooked the Delaware River. Another sister Milcah Martha Hill Moore lived nearby. As warring factions approached Philadelphia, people fled their homes seeking safety. Milcah Moore moved her family north of Philadelphia. Margaret began a Journal to amuse her sister, commenting on events that were unfolding around her. The Journal begins in early December 1776, as General Cornwallis and his army marched through New Jersey, the British fleet blockaded the Delaware, and General Washington and his troops fled into Pennsylvania. On the river near Margaret Morris’s house “galleys” or “gondolas” of the Pennsylvania navy were positioned to prevent the crossing of British troops. Here are several entries from Morris’s Journal in late December.

. . . to day (the 22d) we hear Gen: Howe is at trenton, & it is thought there will be an engagement soon. . . . We hear this afternoon that our Officers are afraid thier Men will not fight & wish they may all run home again. A peaceable Man ventured to Prophesy to day, that if the War is continued thro the Winter, the British troops will be scard at the sight of our Men, for as they Never fought with Naked Men, the Novelty of it, will terrify them & make them retreat, faster than they advanced to meet them, for he says, from the present appearance of our ragged troops, he thinks it probable, they will not have Cloaths to cover them a Month or 2 hence. . . .

26th—the Weather very stormy. . . . a great Number of flat Bottom Boats gone up the River, we cant learn where they are going to

27th—a letter from Gen [Joseph] Read to his br[other: Bowes Reed]—informing him that Washington had had an engagement with the Regulars on the 25th early in the Morning, taking them by surprize, killd fifty, & took 900 prisoners. The loss on our side not known, or if known, not sufferd to be publick.—It seems this heavy loss to the Regulars was oweing to the prevailing custom among the Hessians of getting drunk on the eve of that great day which brought peace on Earth & good Will to Men—but oh, how unlike Christians is the Manner in which they Celebrate it, can we call ourselves Christians, while we act so Contrary to our Masters rules—he set the example which we profess to follow, & here is a recent instance that we only profess it; instead of good will, envy & hatred seem to be the ruling passions in the breasts of thousands. This evening the 27th about 3000 of the Pensylvania Militia, & other Troops landed in the Neck, & marchd into Town with Artillery, Baggage &c, & were quarterd on the inhabitants, one Company were lodged at J Vs & a guard placed between his house & ours, We were so favord as not to have any sent to our House. An Officer spent the Evening with us, & appeard to be in high spirits, & talkd of engaging the English as a very triffling affair, Nothing so easy as to drive them over the North River &c—not considering there is a God of Battle, as well as a God of peace, who may have given them the late advantage, in order to draw them out to meet the Chastisement that is reservd for them.

The Journal entries above can be found on pages 101-102 of In the Words of Women.

posted December 25th, 2014 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Hessians,Holidays,Morris, Margaret Hill,Philadelphia,Washington, George

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