Friday, December 11, 2009

Cleveland Family Christmas

I'm in a Christmas mood, so I thought that's what I would write on today. I found this historical essay on the Cleveland Family Christmases:
Christmas at the Cleveland White House naturally focused on the president’s daughters. A typical Christmas menu included oysters, bouillon, roast turkey with cracker stuffing, roast pork, boiled onions, jellied cranberries, mashed turnips, chicken patties, green salad, olives, fancy pastries, ices, plenty of fruits and nuts, pies of all kinds, and coffee. In 1896, a newspaper noted that the family’s turkey weighed 57 pounds. Ample food from the same menu was also available to the domestic staff who ate their meals downstairs.

Mrs. Cleveland made the Christmas tree, stylishly laden with toys, the center of White House holiday decorations. President Cleveland preferred the old-fashioned tradition of hanging stockings on the fireplace mantel and insisted on stuffing them with bon bons in the toes, figs in the heels, and toys to fill the legs. The Cleveland's hosted an annual Christmas Eve children’s party for their tots and for the children of Cabinet members. That evening they also gave turkeys to the married staff members and gifts to the rest.

To the delight of Ruth, Esther, and Marion, Mrs. Cleveland placed through the Christmases ever more elaborate trees in the library. An 1896 newspaper account described the family’s tree as “a tremendous pine, fully twenty feet tall” laden with presents and decorated with “tinsel and twinkling with red, white and blue electric lights.” As for the president, he enjoyed nothing more than a Christmas duck hunt. In 1894, the Washington Evening Star reported that Cleveland gave each of his cabinet members a duck for Christmas dinner, the spoils of his hunting vacation in South Carolina, which left him with a “bronzed face, bright eyes and a more elastic step." But he reserved Christmas day only for the pleasure of his daughters. Christmas morning the girls opened their gifts and the president and first lady joined the excited children making merry with their new toys. Christmas at the Cleveland White House, as an Illinois reporter described it in 1896, was a “children’s festival.”
Hopefully this put you all in the holiday spirit.


Anonymous said...

Cool article, I always like reading about holidays at the WH.

franceshunter said...

What a delightful post! It gives a human glimpse into one of the few families in the White House with young children, too. It sounds as if the Clevelands were awfully loving, doting parents. I wish there were color photos of those Christmas trees!