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Christmas 1835 – Part 2

December 27, 2018

In the 21st century Charles Dickens has been called “The Man Who Invented Christmas.”  Some of this may be due to the notion that Christmas celebrations were not popular before the publication of A Christmas Carol.  That novella, which continues to inform current opinion, was published in 1843, a full 20 years after Clement Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”  Although early 19th century Americans with a Puritan background may have been opposed to enjoying the Christmas season, such lack of tradition was by no means universal.  On Christmas morning 1835 the White House children awoke wondering whether they had been visited by St. Nicholas.

“Did Santa Claus come?”

“See for yourselves,” Uncle Andrew replied.

In addition to the contents of their stockings, the gifts included dolls, tea sets, rattles, a hobby horse, a drum, a bridle and saddle, and even a small gun, each child receiving an age appropriate gift.  President Jackson, acting as Santa’s agent, had been very generous this year.

At 4:00 P.M. the children played games in the East Room.  Vice President Van Buren, the man who would be elected President within a year, participated and lost a game of tag.  His penalty was to stand on one leg and recite: “Here I stand all ragged and dirty.  If you don’t come kiss me, I’ll run like a turkey.”  When no one came to his rescue, he “strutted like a game gobbler across the room.”

Dinner was at 6:00 P.M. in the Red Room where a mountain of starch-coated cotton balls had been piled in the center of the room.  After dinner the children took those cotton balls into the East Room and had a brief but delightful “snowball” fight.




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