Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Holiday Happenings at the Mark Twain House

In Mark Twain’s house, his three daughters not only wrote letters to Santa – they got letters back, too.

“If my boot should leave a stain on the marble” near the fireplace, the servants shouldn’t wipe it away, Santa wrote daughter Susy, 3 years old in 1875. “Leave it there always in memory of my visit; and whenever you look at it or show it to anybody you must let it remind you to be a good little girl.”

The boot-print is there now, along with roping, wreaths, a “kissing ball” in the front hall and numerous other signs of the season and the way Sam Clemens and his family celebrated it.

All during the holidays, visitors to the Mark Twain House & Museum travel back to a 19th-century Christmas, with gifts laid out on tables and chairs, a popcorn popper near the library fireplace, and presents and wrapping spread all over the girls’ schoolroom. Even in Twain’s own study, there’s a red jacket tossed on a chair – a clue to who was really writing those letters to the girls.

And the second-floor guest suite, where Livy Clemens’ mother, Olivia Langdon, and Sam Clemens’ mother, Jane Clemens, stayed when they visited, is not only made ready for the holiday but also newly reopened for the public to view.

The guest suite, closed for several years, was described as a “luxury” room by various visitors of Twain’s time. It featured wall-to-wall Brussels carpet, a small cozy fireplace, and an adjacent bathroom. Many of the furnishings there now came from Olivia’s parents’ home in Elmira, NY. A secretary, a pair of peach tufted side chairs, and a sewing box in the room also belonged to the Langdons.

Twain plays The Ghost of Holidays Past in a local adaptation of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. The play, Ebeneeza: A Hartford Holiday Carol, will be traveling through four Hartford locations, including The Mark Twain House & Museum for three performances: Friday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 pm; Saturday, Dec. 12, at 7:30 pm and Sunday, Dec. 13, at 2 pm. All performances are free and open to the public.

Also, on two Saturdays this December, The Mark Twain House & Museum will join with The Kitchen at Billings Forge (which runs the famed Firebox restaurant) to present a new holiday tradition: The Connecticut Yankee Christmas Dinner Tour. The two-hour, by-reservation-only package includes a savory buffet dinner in The Mark Twain Museum Center café followed by a Christmas-themed evening tour of the house on Dec. 12 and Dec. 19. Reservations are required: Call 860-280-3128. Tickets, which include the buffet dinner, soft drinks and tour, are $50 for adults and $35 for children 12 and under. Seatings begin at 5 pm.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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