An All-Night Affair: Christmas Parties at Reynolda

Written by Amber C. Albert, Manager of Community and Academic Learning

Christmas parties at Reynolda lasted “‘til the sun come up.” During the holiday season, Mary Reynolds Babcock hosted extravagant and (often) boisterous parties at Reynolda. Before her family made Winston-Salem their primary residence, estate electrician Shober Ray “Pops” Hendrix described their typical holiday plans, “They would come down [from Connecticut] at Easter and Christmas and throw big parties and dances for a couple of weeks and be gone.” 

Following World War II, cocktail parties and informal dinners were the most common forms of Christmas gatherings for white middle- and upper-class Americans. Sometimes referred to as the “Great Age of the Chafing Dish,” this era saw party guests dressed in cocktail attire, often sporting Christmas-themed accessories like corsages with bells. Holiday festivities at Reynolda epitomized these traditions.

While such parties were celebrations for some, they represented additional work for others. The Babcocks relied on Hendrix to oversee the house’s electrical needs (especially demanding during the holidays) and coordinate parking for party attendees. Paid extra for putting in long hours during Christmas parties, he recalled, “I’d come up here [Reynolda house] at like 7 o’clock in the mornin’ and stay up here ‘til the sun come up the next mornin’.” 

Image: Mary Reynolds Babcock, seated at center, enjoys cocktails with her husband Charles H. Babcock and friends in Reynolda’s 1936 Art Moderne Bar.