Christmas At Drumthwacket

Each holiday season, garden clubs around the state decorate our grand and historic governor’s mansion. Join us on a tour.

Although Governor Chris Christie and his family live primarily in their Mendham home, they hope to spend quality time this holiday season at Drumthwacket, the official governor’s mansion.

Drumthwacket is among the most fabled and elegant of America’s executive residences, with a history dating back three centuries. Located in Princeton, not far from the state government offices in Trenton, the mansion was acquired by the state in 1966 and has been the official—if not daily—home to every governor since.

Upstairs, twelve private rooms serve as a part-time home to the first family; six public rooms on the main floor are the site of many official functions. Perhaps the most impressive is the annual Garden Club holiday display.

“I anticipate possibly spending the night at Drumthwacket Christmas Eve,” reports First Lady Mary Pat Christie.

Even so, the Christies plan not to stray far from their accustomed holiday celebration, steeped in tradition and focused on family. The First Family typically goes to Christmas mass—“My smaller children will be a part of the nativity scene,” Mary Pat says—and then on to the home of the governor’s brother for an Italian feast. Christmas morning is just the six Christies, opening presents and enjoying Mary Pat’s cream cheese-cinnamon pastries hot out of the oven. They then head to Mary Pat’s mother’s house in Pennsylvania for Christmas Day dinner, a meal capped off with Mary Pat’s chocolate-mousse sponge cake—“the crown of the evening,” she calls it.

So how will things be different this year, their first year as official residents of Drumthwacket? Upstairs, they plan to keep it simple, following their long-standing traditions. They’ll decorate a family tree—“we have so many ornaments,” says Mary Pat—and adorn it with a homemade cranberry and popcorn string. “It’s tedious for my children at this point, but I really enjoy it,” she says.

Downstairs, it’s a different matter. The public space will be decorated to the hilt by the seven participating garden clubs from around the state. “We want to open Drumthwacket to as many people as possible,” says the First Lady. “These ladies put in so much time and effort, with such talent. We are planning a lot of festivities to host a lot of people who haven’t had a chance to see the decorations. We feel incredibly privileged and honored to be the stewards of this home for the next three years.”

Participating garden clubs for the 2010 holiday season include Essex Fells, Hunterdon Hills, Montville/Valhalla, Neshanic, New Vernon, Somerset Valley, and Spring Lake. Guests are welcome to tour the governor’s mansion during five scheduled open houses: Wednesdays, December 1, 8 and 15; Sundays, December 5 and 12, from 11 am to 2 pm. Reservations are required. Call 609-683-0057, or go to Suggested donation of $5 to the nonprofit Drumthwacket Foundation, the curatorship organization. The gift shop, located in the circa-1759 timber-frame farmhouse on the grounds, will also be open, offering seasonal gift items exclusive to Drumthwacket.

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