What most people don’t know is that ten years later, George Washington led another, less successful, Christmas attack.
In November 1786 Washington's war buddy David Humphreys sent his regrets that he would “not have the felicity of eating Christmas Pie at Mount Vernon” that year. Washington replied that Humphreys would be missed, though he lamented being deprived "of your aid in the Attack of Christmas Pyes." (The final spelling of "pies" wasn't nailed down yet.)
Side note for anyone who thinks Washington was a humorless bore: In addition to probable wenching and naming his dogs Sweet Lips and Drunkard, he actually used the phrase "Attack on Christmas Pyes" to describe holiday binging. He was cooler than we'll ever be.
Washington went on to rub in Humphreys' face what he had missed, "We had one yesterday on which all the company (and pretty numerous it was) were hardly able to make an impression."
|AWOL pie eater David Humphreys on the very right, looking like Washington’s stunt double in this detail of John Trumbull’s “Washington Resigning His Commission.”|
First, bone a turkey, a goose, a brace of young pheasants, four partridges, four woodcocks, a dozen snipes, four grouse, and four widgeons.You know you’re in for days of preparation when the first step is basically "Murder most fowl." Christmas pies pretty much required taking everything from the 12 Days of Christmas song and removing its bones. (Sorry lords a' leaping.)
One Christmas pie in London in 1770 was reportedly nine feet in circumference, weighed 168 pounds, and required wheels to transport. The pies made at Mount Vernon weren't quite that epic, but they must have been pretty massive to feed Washington's posse.
|1857 illustration of
a Christmas pie for the Royal Banquet at Windsor Castle. |
If I attacked that pie, I’d need to be carried home at the end of the night just like this.
That metaphor might be a little half-baked. But in the same vein as the bittersweet song "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," David Humphreys' letters are a small reminder that some things are temporary and someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow. A year after his absence from the pie attack of 1786, he wrote to Washington about rejoining the annual battle: "I am in full hopes of being on the spot this year to do ample justice to the Christmas Pye."
Unfortunately the result of this rematch between Patriots and pie has been lost to history. I'd like to think they fought another valiant but unsuccessful battle, and the copious leftovers were shared with the people who boned dozens of birds to create them.
|Merry Christmas to all and to all a good slice.|