The group gathered at the Mark Twain Museum Saturday, Dec. 8, to hear about how the Sam Clemens family celebrated Christmas and to hear a letter Clemens wrote as Santa Claus was rewarded with an entertaining yet educational glimpse of the family.
Museum Curator Henry Sweets began the program with a discussion of some Hannibal Gazette articles about Christmas in Hannibal in 1846 when young Sam Clemens was age 10.
Sweets also shared Clemens’ account of an 1867 cruise to the Holy Land. It was during this cruise that he “fell in love” with a portrait of Livy Langdon - his future wife - while traveling with her brother. And Clemens described how he felt at night standing on a hill overlooking Bethlehem.
Sweets said this 1867 trip was near the same time the Rev. Phillips Brooks visited the same spot and was inspired to write “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
Continuing his portion of the program Sweets read from Clara Clemens’ biography of her father, sharing how the family celebrated Christmas in Hartford, Conn., when she was young. Clara said her mother gave presents to many people in need, in addition to the family and their servants. ... Her father did not approve of the amount of time Livy spent writing Christmas lists, sorting gifts and preparing them, because he was concerned about her health.
Clara also shared her memories of Christmas Eve and the difficulty the girls experienced in trying to sleep. This was after their mother had read “The Night Before Christmas” and their dad was dressed as Santa Claus. Before the Christmas Eve ended, the girls “squealed ‘Thank you, thank you, Santa Claus, for the things we hope to like.’”
Then early on Christmas morning the girls found their presents in the school room next to the nursery. One year there was a “big object in the center of the room” that was a “lovely upright piano. I was only 6 years old.”
Master Storyteller Gladys Coggswell also participated in the museum’s Christmas program, reading a letter Sam Clemens - as Santa - wrote to his youngest daughter, Suzy. Coggswell explained the girls wrote lists of what they wanted for Christmas. Santa’s letter explained that he had run out of some things.
He wrote that the doll furniture she wanted was delivered to a girl named Snowflake, who needed it much more. Santa wrote that he needed to know more about the chest she requested. He said he would come to kitchen door and she could talk to him through the speaking tube and tell him what color trunk she wanted and what she wanted in it.
He signed the letter, “Santa Claus, whom some people call the man in the moon.”
Page 2 of 2 - As the audience was visiting with the performers after the program Coggswell was asked when she would resume her storytelling at the museum. She said “I will be back in April.”