Inside the Governor's Mansion for Christmas

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi's First Lady Deborah Bryant wants to invite you to come tour your state's iconic home during the holidays. Rebecca Powers takes us inside the Governor's Mansion on what will be the Bryant family's first Christmas there.

Nestled in the heart of downtown Jackson, the Governor's home, decked out for Christmas is a warm and inviting place.  Built in 1841, it is the nation's oldest consistently occupied Governor's mansion, second only to Virginia.

Mrs. Bryant said she wanted to give the mansion a personal touch with home, family and nature as her inspiration.

"We wanted it to feel more like the 1800s. Very natural, a lot of greenery," Bryant said. "When you walk in at night, very candlelit, just simple elegance."

Honoring the history of this architectural beauty and the organic simplicity of the 19th century, the stairwell garland was handmade with Magnolia leaves. They can also be found on most mantles. And in the fireplace?

"This is Mississippi Birch and we have pieces cut with the candles on the top. It's simple, but pretty. It's very simple and since we can't light fires here in the mansion, we just thought it would be nice to have that warm glow."

Over in the Rose Room, the 14 foot Fir seems to be topped off with a big green ribbon, but it's not.

"No, it's actually tea leaves that we made our ribbon."

Nationally renowned designer Wendy Putt helped Mrs. Bryant decorate, but her own son Patrick is also a talented designer who explains his inspiration for the dining room's table setting.

"I really just wanted it to look like home," 24-year-old Patrick Bryant said. "If you notice the glasses are not ornate, no fine crystal or china. I wanted it just to look like back in the 1800s. They would have just had something they brought from the kitchen with fresh fruit in it, fresh flowers from the garden."

The piano room honors the great old instrument with a musical theme and upstairs she put loving thoughts of her family into each bedroom. Like a child's themed room with her now grown daughter Katie's rocking horse and porcelain dolls bought by the governor himself.

On the mantle are wool stockings and the tree is decorated with the popcorn balls, candy, tiny wool mitts and sugarplums.

The room where Katie dressed on her wedding day has a Victorian bridal theme. And the bedroom next door was former Governor McWilly's daughter Anne's room in the 1850s.

"This was Anne's bed and she had a writing box. Anne was the first daughter to be married in the mansion and was also the first to have the first child in the mansion. So we made this Anne's room."

Another room inspired by a love for reading, remembers her grandmother who used a huge original "Dick and Jane" book to teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Hazelhurst. It sits prominently on the fireplace hearth.

She said with a smile, "And when we were little growing up, she also taught us to read out of this book and we taught my son to read out of this book. So it's very special, very, very special."

First Lady Deborah Bryant wanted her first Christmas in the Governor's mansion to feel like home, not only for her family, but for all who visit. Her genuine warmth and down to earth nature shows in her simple, yet elegant approach to decorating Mississippi's most historic home.

Tours of the Mansion are free and held every Tuesday through Friday. Along with the first family and their Labrador "Maddy," Santa has made a few surprise appearances lately with cookies and hot chocolate. So you never know who you might see there.

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