Christmas at The Mark Twain House

Spend Christmas with the Clemenses!

The Mark Twain House will be decorated for the holidays beginning Tuesday, November 23rd! Be sure to book your tickets for a house tour or one of our popular Living History tours with a costumed resident or servant of the house. Reserve your tickets early to ensure you see “the loveliest home that ever was” at its most lovely!

While you’re here, make sure to view our Thomas Nast & Santa Claus exhibit, on loan from Stephen Jeffrey, on the second floor of the museum center, and read and respond to the letter Susy Clemens received from Santa Claus himself!

If you can’t visit the house in person, join us virtually for four special Christmas programs, live from the house each week of December. Click on the name of each program to learn more and purchase tickets. Museum members attend for free!

You can even decorate your home just as the Clemenses did in the Gilded Age with our Christmas Craft Box, available for purchase through the museum store! If you have one of those boxes–or just want to get in on the crafting fun using your own supplies–click here for instructions!

 

Christmas Crafts

In the Gilded Age, most American families that celebrated Christmas made the decorations that adorned their home and tree by hand. Below you’ll find instructions for four crafts we know the Clemens family made in their Hartford home, plus one that’s just fun and easy!

Popcorn Garland

Christmas Crafts Paper Chains

Cornucopias

Snowflakes

Paper Net Garland

Thomas Nast & Santa Claus 

NOVEMBER 15, 2021 – JANUARY 31, 2022

On loan from Stephen Jeffrey

Location: Second Floor Hallway

The Thomas Nast Santa Claus and Christmas pictures on view form part of a collection owned by Stephen Jeffrey of Bloomfield, Connecticut.  His interest is in the evolution of the image of St. Nicholas – or Santa Claus as we call him from the early 1840’s – from the early 1800’s until today.

Prior to Nast, Santa Claus was portrayed as a small, well-dressed gnome-like figure smoking a pipe with a long stem or as a large, fur-robed figure enjoying a tankard of stout. Inspired by Clement Moore’s poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, (more commonly known as The Night Before Christmas), Nast drew Santa Claus as the fat, jolly, white bearded, red-costumed figure, the version that has stuck with us since 1862 through to modern times.

The larger collection owned by Stephen Jeffrey consists of wood engravings, etchings, watercolors, lithographs, screen-prints, and even antique images of Santa Claus on fabric.

Christmas Verbarium

On May 12, 1875, Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford held a fund-raising spelling bee with many prominent members of the community as participants. The church’s minister, Reverend Joseph Twichell, asked his best friend Sam Clemens to open the event with a speech. During his speech, Sam explained a word game—one that you can play at home! It goes by many names, but he called it “Verbarium.”

There is a game called Verbarium. A dozen people are each provided with a sheet of paper, across the top of which is written a long word like kaleidoscopical, or something like that, and the game is to see who can make up the most words out of that in three minutes, always beginning with the initial letter of that word.

You can play with any size group, in person or virtually. Warm up with “kaleidoscopical” just to get the hang of it, and then play with these sesquipedalian seasonal selections:

GINGERBREAD, FRANKINCENSE, HALLELUJAH, JUBILATION, PFEFFERNUESSE, TANNENBAUM, PEPPERMINT, POMANDER, MERRIMENT, WENCESLAS, BETHLEHEM, WASSAILING, POINSETTIA, BALTHAZAR, SEPTENTRIONAL, ANNUNCIATION, NUTCRACKER, YULETIDE, CHRISTKINDLMARKT, BELSNICKEL, PANETTONE, INCARNATION, EPIPHANY

Learn more about Clemens’s spelling bee appearance and find more long words to play with here.