God's Roadmap

Now may the Lord Jesus Christ and our Father God, who loved us and in his wonderful grace gave us eternal comfort and a beautiful hope that cannot fail, encourage your hearts and inspire you with strength to always do and speak what is good and beautiful in his eyes (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 TPT).

Sunday, December 16, 2018

What Was Christmas Like in Revolutionary Times?

by Barbara Latta

Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington
Christmas celebrations vary across the world and the customs of past eras are fun and interesting to explore.  

Several years ago, my husband, Ken, worked in the Washington, D.C. area.  We visited Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington, so much we volunteered to work for the many events held there.

While working we would wear the authentic costumes of the period. Ken would don a tricorn hat and thick cape and after I had struggled with the ties and wraps of my garments, we walked among the tourists taking on the role of revolutionary citizens.  Because we were required to keep in character and speak to guests in colonial lingo, curtsy when in the presence of General Washington, and not wear modern jewelry, it was easy to get caught up in the ambiance of living at Mount Vernon in the late 1700’s.

George and Martha Washington frequently relax on the piazza and visit with family and friends. The General is often seen in his blue Continental Army uniform riding his regal stallion across the lawn at sunset.
George and Martha Washington entertain on
the piazza.

It was a most impressive sight!

My favorite part of all the year’s festivities was the Christmas Candlelight celebration. For several days, special tickets were sold for a nighttime visit to the property. Lanterns lined the sidewalks, fragrant greenery decorated the estate, and outdoor fires crackled in black iron kettles supported on tripods. Aladdin the camel, who was imported from a zoo and kept in a corral, was always a major draw for visitors.  General Washington did this every year to entertain his guests at Christmas so the Mount Vernon staff made every effort to keep the happenings authentic.

This candlelight event was designed to simulate the entertaining way the Washington’s greeted guests who visited Mount Vernon during the holidays.  Dignitaries, friends, and military personnel were always invited to celebrate with the family. In the spirit of history each year, the house is operated as if the Washington’s were at home about to serve a meal to guests. The table is set in the dining room with the china and crystal Martha Washington would have chosen and the food is laid out ready to serve.

Ken served as the Town Crier.
So as ticket-holders arrived for the evening Christmas tour, they were assigned the identity of an actual visitor the Washington’s had and name tags were passed out. Ken was given the task of town crier, and as each visitor started the tour he  read their name off a list, rang a bell, and  would yell, “Hear ye, hear ye, the General and Mrs. Washington are pleased to announce the arrival of  Mr. and Mrs. John LaFaye.” The visitors wearing those particular name tags then joined the group of people who were being escorted to the Mansion for their candlelight walk.

It was particularly cold during our final December of volunteering. Rain had fallen for several days and the ground was muddy and slick. As Ken’s voice was getting hoarse and my feet were turning into mud icicles, we stood around the fire warming ourselves with the other volunteers while waiting for the next group. Several carolers were off to the side in a brush lean-to singing by the light of lanterns. Aladdin peered over the fence of his corral and after losing interest in us, he continued to munch on his supper. The Potomac River’s strong currents could be heard rushing by the landing at the back of the estate reminding us of some of the difficulties of travel over 200 years ago.

As each guest returned from their visit to the Mansion, their name tags were collected to be
Revolutionary clothing for women.
used again and placed in my basket. I started down the path to the information center to greet another group as they were waiting to be escorted to the first stop on the tour. My cold hands could hardly feel the reeds on the basket as the handle filled my palms. Mud covered my shoes and iciness was penetrating into my bones. The night was clear and the stars were shining much like they must have been on the night of our Savior’s birth.  I gazed into the sky for a few moments until a noise brought my attention back to earth and toward the corral where Aladdin was pacing. I could almost see one of the Magi standing nearby. The air sparkled with Christmas magic.

The candles in the glass lanterns lining the walkways flickered in the wind and although I was cold, the experience overwhelmed me. In the shadows I saw a tall figure approaching on his way to the Mansion and I stopped and caught my breath. Although I knew it wasn’t the actual man, I still felt I was in the presence of royalty.

I curtsied and said, “Good evening, General Washington and Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas to you, ma’am,” he replied and he doffed his hat and bowed.

I watched as he passed me by on the way to entertain his guests, and I knew I had just experienced something I could not have received from history books.

I met the father of our country.

If you would like to meet him too, you can plan a visit to Mount Vernon here. You will be enthralled.

 Join the conversation and share one of your holiday experiences.



  1. We had a great time participating in those events. I am so thankful to be home for Christmas. Due to my overseas travel I missed a total of six Christmasses at home.

    1. Yes we did and I am glad you are home now.