Monday, December 6, 2021

1774 Christmas Holiday Celebrations in Alexandria, Virginia

 Nicholas Cresswell (1750-1804) by an unidentified artist, c 1780.  Cresswell was the son of a landowner & sheep farmer in Edale, Derbyshire. At the age of 24, he sailed to the American colonies to visit a native of Edale who was then living in Alexandria, Virginia. For the next 3 years he kept a journal of his experiences, before returning to England.  Cresswell wrote while in Alexandria on December 25, 1774: “Christmas Day but little regarded here.”

However Cresswell did attend a lively ball on Twelfth Night; "There was about 37 Ladys Dressed and Powdered to the like, some of them very handsom, and as much Vanity as is necessary. All of them fond of Dancing. But I do not think they perform it with the greatest elleganse. Betwixt the Country Dances they have What I call everlasting Jiggs. A Couple gets up, and begins to dance a Jig (to some Negro tune) others comes and cuts them out, these dances allways last as long as the Fiddler can play. This is social but I think it looks more like a Bacchanalian dance then one in a polite Assembly. Old Women, Young Wifes with young Children on the Laps, Widows, Maids, and Girls come promsciously to these Assemblys which generally continue til morning. A Cold supper, Punch, Wine, Coffee, and Chocolate, But no Tea. This is a forbidden herb. The men chiefly Scotch and Irish. I went home about Two Oclock, but part of the Company stayd got Drunk and had a fight."