Experience a Victorian Christmas With a Candlelight Tour at the James K. Polk Home

james k polk house

This year the James K. Polk Home has seen the return of all of their major events like Bloodys and Biscuits, Polk Ball, the Membership Luncheon, and original exhibitions at Polk Presidential Hall. A Candlelight Tour on Saturday, December 10, 2022 at 4:30 p.m. will complete this year’s activities. An additional tour has been added on December 11 at 4:30 p.m according to Jaryn Abdullah, Polk Home Education and Program Director.

Visitors enjoying the candlelight tour of the Polk Home will see decorations focused on Victorian Christmas traditions, followed by a festive holiday treat. Locals and out of state visitors alike are sure to enjoy the tour. One of the trees was decorated thanks to help from children who took part in the final Homeschool History Day that took place in November.

It was Queen Victoria of England who got Christmas tree decorating started in the United Kingdom and the United States. She borrowed the long-held traditions of her German husband who brought fir tree decorations from his homeland. A photo of her family sitting around a decorated tree made it into an American newspaper and the tradition took off in the late-1840s in this country. The first Christmas tree was not decorated in the White House until 1856, however, during the presidency of Franklin Pierce, according to the Saturday Evening Post.

Decorating for Christmas was just getting started in the late 1840s, when James K. Polk was 11th President of the United States. And Polk, being a workaholic, pretty much ignored the holiday season. Although, in his Christmas diary of 1848, according to livejournal.com, he did actually take the day off.

“[Polk called it], “perhaps the most-quiet day of my Presidential term.” He mentioned that Mrs. Polk attended church with some relatives and their children, but he did not accompany them. His presidential diary entries for previous Christmases also fail to mention the distribution of any White House Christmas cards [or] activities.”

Today we would most likely call him Ebenezer Scrooge, as he worked Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas. Of course, it was a tumultuous time. With the end of the Mexican-American War, the United States continued to move West. The creation of new states, including California and New Mexico, was increasing tensions over slavery as Southerners wanted to bring the new states in as slave states and Northerners wanted to ban slavery in new states being allowed into the Union.

Just like today, there were also rapid changes in technology, religion and politics during Polk’s presidency. It was a pivotal time in history, but Polk is rarely acknowledged for what he achieved during his tenure as president, keeping a delicate peace between North and South while pushing the American frontier to the Pacific coast.

The candlelight tour allows Polk Home docents to share their passion for history — both about Victorian holiday traditions and the Polk family — as they lead those participating on an educational journey.

Candlelight tour guests will also receive a discount at the Little Acorn Gift Shop at the end of the tour. It is a great time and place to pick up a few Unique gifts for friends and family that you will find nowhere else. They have things for everyone from history buffs to kids to locally made products that make great hostess gifts.

Space is limited, so reserve a ticket now through Eventbrite. The cost is $15 per person. Whether traveling through Tennessee or entertaining out-of-town guests locally, the James K. Polk home is open not only for the candlelight guided tour, but also other tours during the week and on weekends. See the schedule here.

“We will be having more events beginning in February,” said Abdullah. “They will be tied to our new display from our collection on the Mexican-American War.”

The James K Polk Home and Museum is located at 301 W. 7th Street, Columbia, TN 38401.


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