Home for the Holidays: Virtual Artifact Exhibit

December 2nd, 2021
christmas tree

In December 1906, the Douglas family moved to Brucemore, an 1880s estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. With them, the family brought their own traditions and celebrations which influenced the way they observed holidays at their home for the next three decades.

George and Irene Douglas, along with their daughters – Margaret, Ellen, and Barbara – celebrated many Christmases at Brucemore. On Christmas Eve, the mansion was decorated with greenery, a tree, and stockings. The Douglas women often spent the day delivering baskets to friends and community members in need. On Christmas day, the daughters opened their stockings in an upstairs room before going downstairs to the library to open gifts as a family. Later, the family enjoyed a formal dinner.

During her teenage years, the oldest of the children, Margaret Douglas, often hosted a holiday party at Brucemore. Because Margaret attended a boarding school in New York, this party was an opportunity to reunite with many of her friends for dancing, games, and refreshments.

These Christmas celebrations were made possible by the large team of servants who worked on the estate. The head gardener, for instance, was recruited to assist with the holiday décor and Christmas greenery. The season required additional work for the servants. The cooks were responsible for making elaborate dinners while additional guests necessitated extra cleaning for other staff.

In the days following Christmas, the decorations and tree were removed. As the new year approached, the Douglas family often traveled. For many years, the Douglas family enjoyed the sunny climate of Santa Barbara, California. During the winters they chose to stay in Iowa, however, the family enjoyed snowy sleigh rides, walks in snowshoes, sledding, and ice skating on the estate.

When Margaret Douglas Hall inherited her childhood home, she and her husband, Howard, brought new traditions to Brucemore. Today, Brucemore continues to showcase the family traditions through tours and programs.

View the virtual exhibit of holiday-themed objects from Brucemore’s collection.