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Christmas at the Vann House
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Vann House lit by candle
James Vann welcomed the Moravians into his newly built mansion in 1805 for a celebration of Christmas, marking the first time this Christian holiday was recognized in the Cherokee Nation. Today Chief Vann House Historic Site remembers North Georgia's first Christmas with one of the most popular December events in the North Georgia mountains - A Moravian Christmas at the Vann House

The austere Moravian mission did not seem like a good place to have a Christmas celebration, so Chief Vann invited the missionaries to his elegant home, Spring Place. They decorated the home and used candles to illuminate the house. Moravians were good record-keepers, so the rangers at the James Vann House had a pretty good idea of what the decorations looked like.

Moravian Church in Georgia

Bust of James Monroe decorates a piano
Jan Hus, a Czech reformer, was accused of heresy and burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. Hus's ideas did not die with the martyr, but flourished, especially in the Czech village of Kunvald, Bohemia. Founded in 1457, the "Unity of Brethren" would later be called the Moravian Church. The Moravians pre-dated Martin Luther, making it one of the first Protestant churches in the world. As such, its members were heavily persecuted for their beliefs. By the time Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the door of a Roman Catholic Castle Church in Wittenberg, the Moravians were 200,000 strong and growing.

As news of the Georgia settlement grew across Europe, the Moravians were attracted by Oglethorpe's strong belief in religious freedom, as were many other persecuted sects. They were given a land grant by the Trustees on January 10, 1734, and the first Moravians arrived on April 6, 1735, making them among the earliest settlers of the colony. After establishing a small community in Savannah they began missionary work at Old Fort on the Ogeechee and at Fort Augusta. These missions closed when the Moravians left Georgia for Pennsylvania during the War of Jenkins Ear. They return in 1774, bringing the Word of God to slaves, with plantation owners permission.

In 1801 two Moravians built a small cabin near Springplace on the Cherokee Trading Path. They later moved to a small farmhouse abandoned by its owner. In 1805 a couple journeyed to Spring Place, as it was now known, on the recently built Federal Road. Reverend John and Anna Rosel Kleist Gambold would oversee Spring Place for the next 16 years. They began and ran the school attended by many of the Cherokee sons including John Ridge (son of Major Ridge), Elias Boudinot, who was known as Buck at the time and James Vann's son Joseph.

Holiday Celebration

The Vann House is lit by candles - throughout the home and out onto the terrace between the museum and the home. It is striking in its beauty and simplicity. Inside the Moravian multi-point star is relied on to decorate the home. Unlike the traditional 5 or 6 pointed stars we are normally familiar with the Moravian star has points in every direction because the Moravians believed God is everywhere.

Each of the rooms has a park ranger or volunteer inside, and they interpret each rooms role in the home. Harp music emanated from the living room on the main floor. A decorated Christmas tree reflects the northeastern European origins of the Moravians, where the tradition began. The route taken is not set, so as you start make a note of the rooms you visit and be certain to visit each room including the basement.

After enjoying your self-guided tour of the home head over to the kitchen, a small outbuilding on the property. Here dedicated volunteers bake traditional Moravian cookies for visitors enjoyment. They are made with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and a good deal of work.

Visiting Chief Vann House

Christmas at the Vann House is a popular event. It is held on Friday and Saturday night, normally on the second week of December. For more information contact the Vann House directly at:

Chief Vann House Historic Site
82 Ga. Highway 225 N
Chatsworth, GA 30705

or call 706-695-2598

County: Murray County

Chief Vann House Historic Site


Take I-75 north to Exit 317 (GA 225). At the end of the ramp turn right (towards Chatsworth). In 18.5 miles, just after crossing GA 52 at a traffic light, make the first right into Chief Vann House State Park. Park and enter the park office/museum to pay.

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