The General and Madame came home on Christmas Eve, and such a racket the servants made, for they were glad of their coming." That lively account of George and Martha Washington's post-war return to Mount Vernon was one of many contemporary sources John drew upon to bring this stirring scene to life. "I went to Mount Vernon in winter," he says, "and shot many rolls of film at every hour of the afternoon, looking for the most dramatic light. The roof is white now, but back then the shingles were red, so for a visual counterpoint I took the liberty of giving Washington a bold red manteau. You'll notice there are no wreaths, candles or other festive display to greet the general this Christmas Eve. Decorating for the holidays did not become an established American tradition until the 19th century."