Forget the Reindeer, Holidays at Mount Vernon Feature a Different Kind of Furry Friend
You know Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen. But do you know Aladdin? He's the beloved Christmas Camel at Virginia's Mount Vernon who each holiday season brings to life a unique piece of American history.
Located just south of Washington, D.C., Mount Vernon is the former estate of the first U.S. President, George Washington. Back in the 18th century, animals played a vital role on the sprawling property. Sheep provided wool, mules plowed the fields, and cattle produced meat and dairy products. But beyond meeting daily necessities, animals were also something Washington had a deep fascination with. He loved rare and exotic species and he often paid to see them in person. Historians say that he once paid 10 shillings to see a "Lyoness" and also laid eyes on a "Cugar" and a "Sea Leopard", which is a type of sea lion. Then in December of 1787, Washington paid a hefty sum of eighteen shillings to bring a camel to Mount Vernon and entertain his holiday guests.
Today, holiday visitors are keeping Washington's tradition alive with Aladdin's "Camel Talks" at the estate's 12 Acre Field. These thirty-minute programs feature the friendly humped animal and historical guides who share the stories of George Washington and his love of all creatures – great and small.
When Aladdin isn't entertaining at Mount Vernon, he's enjoying life with his owner Jennifer Cossette in Berryville Virginia. Cossette is the owner of Pony To Go, a farm with everything from reptiles to horses. In 2007, Cossette and her family decided to add a camel to the mix. "I got Aladdin when he was only a month old," Cossette said. "My son bottle fed him. So he's a big baby. I don't think he even knows he's a camel."
All of that love and attention turned Aladdin into an eight-foot pet who comes when his name is called and sometimes follows Cossette right through the front door of her house. She said Aladdin, who also likes drinking Mountain Dew out of a bottle, is not your typical dromedary. "He doesn't spit, he's not aggressive at all, he's really a big lover and he loves children," explained Cossette. "Everything about him is just personable. I've never had anything that's unique like him. He's just special."
Aladdin's lovable nature has earned him spots at local nativity scenes, birthday parties, and most recently – a wedding proposal. He even has his own Facebook page with pictures and sweet sentiments from those who have met him.
Aladdin arrived for his holiday duties at Mount Vernon on Friday November 27, and will be on display through December 31.