Christmas at Mount Vernon ~

As we climbed the flight of stairs, to the second level of the mansion at Mount Vernon, we ran our hands over the centuries old wooden railing; the same railing George and Martha Washington ran their hands over as they climbed the stairs of their home.

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.

 George Washington

A Living History Museum

If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that walking in the path of those who walked before us is by far my most favorite aspect of travel.  This rings especially true with a visit to Mount Vernon because it is a living history museum. We walked where George Washington walked.  We walked through his home and we walked through the woods where he rode horseback over the 8,000 acres of land he farmed. We stood on the back porch of his home and took in the views of the Potomac River just as George and Martha would have done. And yes, we walked where the enslaved workers walked, lived and toiled.  It’s a walk of contradictions.

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon – home of George and Martha Washington.

While visiting the museum (which is very nicely appointed) we learned that after her husband’s death, Martha Washington burned the bulk of the letters she and George exchanged throughout their marriage.  She wanted their life together to remain private.  It must have taken a great deal of courage for Martha to burn her treasured keepsakes, but at the same time it seems a shame to not have that historical perspective offered through their letters. So much of our country’s history was written on the pages of the letters exchanged between John and Abigail Adams. What would we have learned from George and Martha?

mount vernon

The back porch of Mount Vernon overlooking the Potomac River. The small house on the left is the kitchen.

On the Banks of the Potomac River

Dressed in layers of cold weather gear, we spent several hours touring the mansion and the surrounding property.  The sky was strikingly blue with only a few whiffs of a cloud or two to be seen, but it was cold, maybe 35 degrees tops. It was the kind of cold that lends one to wonder how those who lived at Mount Vernon in the 1700’s managed to survive the brutal winters; especially since the property sits on the banks of the Potomac River.

Mount Vernon

The view of the Potomac River as seen from the back porch of the mansion.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Although there were 4 over-the-door evergreen boughs in the main entrance of the home, the interior of the home itself was not decked out in the holiday fashion a visitor might expect.  Christmas, in the 1700’s, was a quiet and somewhat reserved religious day.  It was not until the 19th century that Christmas trees and Santa Claus became the common symbolism of Christmas.  With that being said though, the education center and museum were pretty much bursting at the seams with holiday cheer.

To learn more:  Christmas events at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

If you find yourself in or around Washington, DC this holiday season, definitely set aside a day to visit Mount Vernon.  You’ll not only take a walk through history, you’ll find yourself humming a whimsical little tune and embracing the Christmas spirit of a colonial plantation.

To Learn More:

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Open 365 days/year

3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway

Mount Vernon, VA  22121

703-780-2000

  • We were media guests of George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  See full disclosures here.
Mount Vernon

In 1787 George Washington paid 18 schillings to have an “exotic” animal – A Christmas Camel – brought to Mount Vernon for the entertainment of his family and guests. This is Aladdin, he’s hanging out for the holiday season.

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12 Responses to Christmas at Mount Vernon ~

  • Richard has visited Mount Vernon but I’ve never been and would love to see it. I love living museums and seeing the furniture, decor and the things used in daily life. It would have been great to read letters between George and Martha and get glimpses into their everyday lives. Maybe something like, “And while you’re in the area could you pick up some fill-in-the-blank?” Maybe this is a good time to look back at the turbulent and peaceful times in our nation’s history and see how things worked out. God knows looking forward definitely leaves me with feelings of fear and trepidation. 🙁
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go recently posted…Part 1- Figuring It Out Along the way – Life in PortugalMy Profile

    • Another interesting tidbit… at one point while George was in the military, he only returned to Mt. Vernon 1 time in 6 years, so Martha would travel to wherever he was based at the time. And, I couldn’t help but wonder what George would think of our modern world. Even though they were men ahead of their time, I’m sure he and the other founding fathers could never have fathomed such a future.

  • Our system was built to last, and although I too feel much trepidation about the next few years, I hope George and his buddies had it right. Unfortunately, democracy requires intense effort from not only the governing but the governed. We, as a people, have forgotten that. Why did we send so many young lives into battle to protect our freedoms, when we can’t get off our duffs and go vote.

  • I would love a nouse around this beautiful mansion and I am sure the grounds would also be impressive. It is such a shame that Martha has burned the letters and I wounder why? They might have been super steamy and passionate? He was certainly an incredible man.

    • The brief film we watched about Martha and George explained that they gave so much of their lives – especially George – to the public, she wanted their private letters to remain just that, private between the two of them. A part of them not to be shared with anyone. Mount Vernon is beautiful with so much to experience, but like to many other places we’ve visited, it’s a contradiction because Mt. Vernon’s vastness was built by the enslaved.

  • I visited Mt. Vernon many years ago—I think it was when I was actually briefly married to a man named Vernon. 🙂 I’ve also visited Monticello. Like you, I feel a connection to history when I visit the homes of historical figures I admire. One thing I like about living in Center City Philadelphia, is that I can walk over the same cobblestones trod by Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, etc. and see where they sat while debating the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If you and Abi ever make it to Philly, I’d love to walk around the country’s most historic square mile with you.
    Suzanne Fluhr recently posted…Zentangle Diva Challenge #297 – Philadelphia Holiday EditionMy Profile

    • We visited Monticello several years ago and it was fascinating – time for a return visit. It’s such an interesting lesson in history; these two men (George and Thomas) who were decades beyond their time, and yet they made the way on the backs of the enslaved. Such a contradiction. One day, we will take you up on your skills as a tour guide as we would love to visit Philly.

  • Visiting a place like this makes history come alive. Have to wonder forever what was in those letters.
    Gaelyn recently posted…A rest stop at the Hassayampa River Riparian AreaMy Profile

    • It truly does, Gaelyn, and Mount Vernon is an excellent example of what life was really like in the 1700’s – 1800’s. Today, in northern Maryland the temperature is 23 degrees with 25 mph winds and I keep thinking about how those who lived in that era were able to stay reasonably warm – especially the enslaved. Really gives one pause to think.

  • Sounds like a really interesting trip – I love the random camel shot and fact at the end. Happy Christmas!

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We are Patti and Abi. We retired early to live a simpler life, travel the world and hopefully, inspire others to redefine retirement.

 

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