A Clemens Christmas

Mark Twain House decorated for the holidays
Mark Twain House decorated for the holidays

Every winter, curatorial staff members at The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut follow the detailed accounts left behind by the Clemens family to decorate the home as authentically as possible. Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, his wife Olivia, and their three daughters lived in this Gilded Age mansion from 1874 to 1891, and the written record of their years in the house is extensive.

This holiday season, the House is more special than usual. On December 4, the famed mahogany guest suite, recently and authentically restored in all its Gilded Age splendor, was reopened to the public for the first time in 15 years. This was the room where “Livy” Clemens wrapped gifts and prepared for the Christmas season when it was not occupied by a guest.

Historic interpreters and Living History actors are well-known for their engaging tours of the famed mansion, but the stories change at Christmastime. Visitors touring the home during the holidays will learn about the family’s gift-giving practices, baskets prepared for the less fortunate members of their Hartford community, Christmas dinner menus, special holiday guests, and a memorable visit from Santa himself.

Historic preservation is more than bricks and mortar. Buildings and historic sites conjure stories of laughter shared, lessons learned, and lives lived. They keep the past alive and remind us to keep our priorities straight. This holiday season, explore the friendlier ghosts of Christmas past. As Mark Twain wrote in a letter to a friend, “The xmas holidays have this high value: that they remind Forgetters of the Forgotten, & repair damaged relationships.”

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