December 20, 2008

A Twain House Christmas

Mark Twain House dining room

Here is what the Twain family may have sat down to eat for a Christmas feast. It is part of an exhibit at the Twain House, in Hartford, CT. From the Twain House website:

Twains 19-room mansion, resplendent with Tiffany interiors, will be adorned as it was for holiday celebrations from 1874 to 1891, when the author, his wife and their three daughters lived in the house....

The curatorial staff of The Mark Twain House has extensively researched holiday traditions of the Victorian period to give visitors a true representation of the late 1800s and the family of Sam Clemens.

The house is decorated according to information gleaned from Clemens family letters and memorabilia, including receipts for everything from food and gifts to ribbons and wreaths, presenting not just a beautifully decorated Victorian house, but also a glimpse at how the family celebrated the season.

Children and adults alike will find reminders of Christmas past throughout the house. There are baskets overflowing with gifts for friends and neighbors, as prepared by Mrs. Clemens, who made up at least 50 such baskets for the poor each holiday season. The dining room table is set for a traditional Christmas dinner. In the entry hall, a "kissing ball" of mistletoe dangles overhead, and the homes massive staircase is wreathed in garlands and ribbons. Gifts in various stages of wrapping are placed in bedrooms and the children's schoolroom on the second floor.

"Traditionally Christmas trees in the late nineteenth-century were decorated with both store-bought and hand-made ornaments. The tree on display, complete with hand-strung popcorn and cranberries, reflects the true Christmas tree of that period," said Patti Philippon, Chief Curator. Gifts found beneath the tree are

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