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You Won’t Believe How 19th Century Savannahians Celebrated the Holidays

Expert historians at the Davenport House studied and researched Savannah’s 19th century holiday season. And boy, do they have a lot of information to share!

The experts don’t know a great deal about the private life of the Davenports. Most of what they know comes from public records instead of personal writings. Since holidays come under the private realm, there’s no way to know EXACTLY how the family observed the season.

Thankfully, expert historians at the Davenport House can make assumptions and educated guesses about how the Davenports celebrated the holidays. Step inside the Davenport House Museum, a preserved 19th century American Federal-style house, between now and December 31 for a guided holiday tour. You’ll learn about the Davenport family as well as find out what Christmas and New Year’s was like in the 1820s. Here are a few samples of what you’ll learn on a Davenport House Museum holiday tour.


Photo by Larissa Allen

1. We don’t even know for sure if the Davenports celebrated Christmas.

The family may have attended church and recognized it in a sober way, but there is stronger speculation that they celebrated New Year’s with more merriment.

2. Mr. Davenport probably shot firearms at Christmas and New Year’s. 

Two things white Southerners were known for during the holidays: drinking and shooting off guns. Making a ton of noise was the regional way of celebrating the holidays.


Chewing tobacco and clothes were often gifts to loyal servants. Photo by Larissa Allen.

3. The Davenports gave gifts to their enslaved servants. 

Tobacco, tea, sugar, cinnamon sticks and clothing were gifts that were often given to loyal servants in the 1820s.


A replica of what a New Year’s feast probably looked like in the 1820s. Photo by Larissa Allen.

4. The Davenports had a big New Year’s feast. 

In the 1820s, Savannah was a port city with ready access to edibles of all kinds. The Davenports most likely feasted on turkey, ham, potatoes and frosted fruit cake.

5. At the time of the Davenports, Christmas was on the brink of commercialization. 

You won’t see a Christmas tree at the Davenport House Museum! That’s because Christmas in the 1820s was not yet commercialized. However, American culture was moving in the direction of family gift giving and the spirit of St. Nicholas.

From December 26 to 30, the Davenport House Museum is offering evening tours by candlelight. There’s no better way to feel like you’re stepping back in time! To learn how to book a Davenport House Museum tour, click here.


854a8291Larissa Allen is Visit Savannah’s social media coordinator. Larissa is addicted to watermelon juice from the Forsyth Farmers’ Market. Her favorite Savannah spots are mostly in the Starland District. 

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