William Henry Harrison, (No. 9) was not in the White House long enough to enjoy a Christmas season, serving only one month before he died of pneumonia after making—in the snow—the longest U.S. presidential inauguration speech on record.
William Henry Harrison, was born at Berkeley Plantation in Virginia on February 9, 1773. His father, Benjamin, was a member of the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The young Harrison grew up on the James River just 30 miles from Yorktown, where Cornwallis surrendered to Washington. William, the youngest of seven children, learned to rely on himself early in life. The Christmas season was celebrated on Virginia plantations by attending church services and decorating their homes with holly and ivy. William, no doubt, followed the colonial boy’s custom of “shooting in the Christmas,” which consisted of firing their guns into the air on Christmas Eve morning. “Oh the holly and the ivy…”
Hear the ancient Christmas song “The Holly and the Ivy”.
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John Quincy Adams (No.6) spent four Christmases in the White House and yet there is very little written about his Christmas celebrations, if indeed there were any.
President Adams was known to follow the same routine every day. He would arise early, swim nude in the Potomac, read several newspapers during breakfast and hold meetings. In the evening dinner was at 5 PM and then he would write in his diaries. He had been raised in Massachusetts where the Puritan distaste for Christmas celebrations may have affected his outlook and he would not have allowed Christmas day to interfere with this practice. However, First Lady Louisa Adams probably celebrated the Christmas holiday in a more prominent way for the children’s sake. There is no historical evidence of Christmas parties at the Adams White House, but Louisa was a very good hostess and may have sent invitations for Christmas dinner at the White House to further her husband’s political connections. Bah, humbug…
Read from the personal diary of John Quincy Adams.
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