The Tatler was a British magazine known for reporting on the events of high society. They often wrote about lifestyle and fashion for the wealthy in St. Augustine. For the December 30, 1899 edition, the Tatler devoted a whole page to the Christmas festivities in St. Augustine and the Alcazar Hotel.
“Christmas day dawned bright and joyous in the Ancient city by the sea, where for more than three hundred years the day has been held in reverence.”
Both the Cathedral and Trinity Episcopal Church were decorated lavishly with Christmas greens. A festive air radiated from the streets full of people.
Christmas at the Alcazar
“Celebrating festival days has long been the fashion at this popular resort, but Christmas, 1899, marks a red letter day even among other festive occasions.”
Guests were greeted upon entry to the dining room by a sign painted with green letters exclaiming “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” The dining room of the Alcazar was decorated with spruce greens, ivy and holly. A Christmas tree covered in incandescent lights stood at the end opposite the entrance. Dinner was reportedly lavish with a boxed piece of fruit cake presented to each diner.
“The dinner was a Lucullian feast, the menu enclosed in an artistic cover well worth preserving.”
The menu of the 1899 Christmas dinner has not survived, however, others have, such as this the Alcazar Christmas dinner menu from 1897. The menu offered various shellfish appetizers, pompano, chicken, turtle, filet mignon, beef, duck, and quail for the main course accompanied by vegetables. An ice cream punch was served along with plum pudding, various fruit pies, fruit cake, ice cream fruits and cheese for dessert.
At 4 PM everyone gathered around the Christmas tree waiting for Santa Claus. He arrived accompanied by music and the blowing of horns. The children, after shaking hands with Santa and assuring they had been good, received a variety of toys. The adults also received gifts. Joe Jefferson, an actor, received a cup for schnapps and Lieutenant General Schofield received a brass cannon filled with sweets.
The Children’s Festival
With gifts for everyone, and a dazzling Christmas tree, children and adults enjoyed the festivities put on by the pastor of Memorial Church for their Sunday school.
“The happy, bright faces and joyous voices were ample reward for pastor and wife, superintendent and teachers, who had made it all possible.”
People served Christmas dinner to the soldiers stationed at the St. Francis Barracks. Even those confined at Fort Marion enjoyed dinner thanks to the commanding officer, Major Scantling. The chaplain also gave them a pipe and some tobacco while blessing them.
The “King’s Daughters” and Relief Society, along with the Evening Record, raised special funds to give Christmas dinners and monetary aid to those unable to provide one for their families.
Hotel Alcazar: Menus: what’s on the menu? http://menus.nypl.org/menu_pages/31033. Accessed 12/15/2022.
Tatler. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatler. Accessed 12/16/2022.
Christmas in St. Augustine. The Tatler, Vol. 14, No. 2, December 30, 1899.