When we started to research the history of Christmas in order to ensure that our Christmas decorations would be as accurate as possible, one of the places we looked was in the vast collection of Davis correspondence. The earliest reference to the giving of gifts at this time of year dates back to 1839, in a letter from a friend in Lenox, MA, Sarah Davis’ hometown. The word “Christmas” was not, however, used in this letter.
The first time Christmas is mentioned by name was in 1847, in a letter from David Davis’ home state of Maryland, in reference to a Christmas party which had been given the month before:
“Mrs Wickes gave a large party in Christmas. Mary Davis and her Brother were there - I think this was outrageous….” Margaret Biddle Mercer, widow of William Davis Mercer to David Davis.
Mercer was David Davis’s maternal uncle. His widow, Margaret, continued to live at The Rounds, Cecil Co., Maryland, the birthplace of David Davis, for a number of years after she became a widow. She was upset that the party had been given shortly after one of Mrs. Wickes’ granddaughters, Ann Alethia Davis [Mrs. Dr. John] Marsh, had died. She was also appalled that two of Mrs. Marsh’s siblings, Mary Davis, and her brother, attended despite the fact that they were in mourning.