Nestled into the candlelit interior of the grand Livingston family estate at Clermont, overlooking the Hudson River and distant Catskills, it’s hard to imagine how hard history once treated this Colonial classic. In 1777, over a quarter-century after its building, the grand home named for its magnificent siting and views was burned by the British in retaliation for Robert Livingston’s role as one of five authors of the Declaration of Independence. But then the place was rebuilt almost immediately – while the Revolution was still being waged, no less.
Yuletide events at the agelessly elegant Clermont start with a special Friends of Clermont Holiday Party on Saturday evening, December 13, followed by a Candlelit Christmas event with activities on Sunday, December 14 and a free Open House on Saturday, December 20. One of the key elements of the candlelit events will be special tableaux vivant presentations in the home’s grand rooms depicting Christmas traditions through the home’s various ages, complete with glittering decorations and holiday goodies served in the Livingstons’ historic kitchen.
Learn how rare a thing now-sacrosanct holiday celebrations were around the time of the house’s building and rebuilding, when Hudson Valley Christmases, if they were celebrated at all, tended to mimic those of grand Virginian plantation-owners who filled their late-December days with fox hunts, social visitations and a few feastlike dinners punctuated with dancing and gambling. Or how it wasn’t until the 1830s that anyone other than a few newly immigrated Germans brought trees inside for decorating, or exchanged gifts on December 25. It wasn’t until the 1850s that the celebration started gaining greater favor, and the post-Civil War years of the 1870s and 1880s that many of today’s traditions started taking hold as a means of showing the nation’s unity (helped along by the declaration of Thanksgiving as a national holiday during the war itself).
Clermont Christmas events include a Holiday Party with delicious treats, wine and good cheer from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on December 13 ($15 for non-members), a Candlelit Christmas event with special activities and house tours from 3 to 6 p.m. on December 14 ($10) and a free Open House from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 20.
Holiday Party, Saturday, December 13, 5:30 p.m., Candlelit Christmas, Sunday, December 14, 3 p.m., Clermont State Historical Park, Route 9G, Clermont; (518) 537-4240, www.friendsofclermont.org.