Dressing for Christmas

Basildon 1Nicola here, wishing everyone a very happy festive season! Last week I had a gorgeous time visiting Basildon Park, a stately home that has featured in many a costume drama from Downton Abbey to Pride and Prejudice. At this time of year many British historic houses are “dressed for Christmas” and you can wander through the rooms seeing how the inhabitants celebrated during eras gone by.  

Preparing the “big house” for Christmas is a major job. Often plans for Christmas are made in March, eight Basildon 2months ahead, and a huge band of staff and volunteers come together to set up the whole show. In some houses one time period is chosen as the theme throughout. In others, each room represents Christmas in a different era. At Standen House, built in the Victorian period, they have a mixture of rooms decorated to reflect the late 1800s through to the present day. One of their favourite decorations is a Christmas card dating from 1882 – people donate their own historical Christmas decorations to dress the house. In the 1960s themed room the emphasis seems to be on cocktails, especially a Christmas tipple called Gin and French, which was popular at the time!

At Corfe Castle they go back to Tudor times with traditions that include the Lord of Misrule and the mummers performing plays and masques. Visitors can partake of mulled wine and mincemeat, join in the story telling around the fire and make traditional Tudor pomanders and holly wreaths with oranges and pine cones. A Tudor Christmas was a riotous affair where all the social classes mingled and a great deal of merriment warded off the dark days of Winter. There are plenty of re-enactors in costume in all the historic houses to show how it was done!

Basildon 4I loved everything Christmassy about Basildon Park. There was a "winterlight walk" up to the house, lit by tiny white lights strung through the trees. The house smelled of Christmas with a mingled scent of pine and spices. Each room looked magical with decorated trees, cosy log fires and candlelight. In the dining room there was the most elegant Basildon 5table decoration of holly, pine cones and fresh flowers. Out in the hall we all joined in singing Victorian Christmas carols around the grand piano. It made us all feel as though Christmas was just around the corner – which it is!

What is your favourite way of “dressing the house” (or yourself!) for the holiday season?

85 thoughts on “Dressing for Christmas”

  1. Here in the United States the Biltmore House, still owned by descendents of George Vanderbilt (but not lived in), is wonderfully decorated each year for Christmas. If you are ever near Asheville, NC in December, you should be sure to visit it. As for my decorations, they are much more modest, but we do get a fresh-cut Fraser fir from the NC mountains, and I supplement that with artificial greenery on the mantelpiece. Scented candles play a part, too. Merry Christmas to all the Wenches and their faithful readers and commenters!

    Reply
  2. Here in the United States the Biltmore House, still owned by descendents of George Vanderbilt (but not lived in), is wonderfully decorated each year for Christmas. If you are ever near Asheville, NC in December, you should be sure to visit it. As for my decorations, they are much more modest, but we do get a fresh-cut Fraser fir from the NC mountains, and I supplement that with artificial greenery on the mantelpiece. Scented candles play a part, too. Merry Christmas to all the Wenches and their faithful readers and commenters!

    Reply
  3. Here in the United States the Biltmore House, still owned by descendents of George Vanderbilt (but not lived in), is wonderfully decorated each year for Christmas. If you are ever near Asheville, NC in December, you should be sure to visit it. As for my decorations, they are much more modest, but we do get a fresh-cut Fraser fir from the NC mountains, and I supplement that with artificial greenery on the mantelpiece. Scented candles play a part, too. Merry Christmas to all the Wenches and their faithful readers and commenters!

    Reply
  4. Here in the United States the Biltmore House, still owned by descendents of George Vanderbilt (but not lived in), is wonderfully decorated each year for Christmas. If you are ever near Asheville, NC in December, you should be sure to visit it. As for my decorations, they are much more modest, but we do get a fresh-cut Fraser fir from the NC mountains, and I supplement that with artificial greenery on the mantelpiece. Scented candles play a part, too. Merry Christmas to all the Wenches and their faithful readers and commenters!

    Reply
  5. Here in the United States the Biltmore House, still owned by descendents of George Vanderbilt (but not lived in), is wonderfully decorated each year for Christmas. If you are ever near Asheville, NC in December, you should be sure to visit it. As for my decorations, they are much more modest, but we do get a fresh-cut Fraser fir from the NC mountains, and I supplement that with artificial greenery on the mantelpiece. Scented candles play a part, too. Merry Christmas to all the Wenches and their faithful readers and commenters!

    Reply
  6. I haven’t bothered since the children grew up. My husband’s birthday is on Christmas Eve and so we tend to put the emphasis on that day rather than Christmas Day.

    Reply
  7. I haven’t bothered since the children grew up. My husband’s birthday is on Christmas Eve and so we tend to put the emphasis on that day rather than Christmas Day.

    Reply
  8. I haven’t bothered since the children grew up. My husband’s birthday is on Christmas Eve and so we tend to put the emphasis on that day rather than Christmas Day.

    Reply
  9. I haven’t bothered since the children grew up. My husband’s birthday is on Christmas Eve and so we tend to put the emphasis on that day rather than Christmas Day.

    Reply
  10. I haven’t bothered since the children grew up. My husband’s birthday is on Christmas Eve and so we tend to put the emphasis on that day rather than Christmas Day.

    Reply
  11. Lights. I love lights. I especially love those battery powered little ones that can be placed anywhere. I hate the short winter days and crave light to drive them away.

    Reply
  12. Lights. I love lights. I especially love those battery powered little ones that can be placed anywhere. I hate the short winter days and crave light to drive them away.

    Reply
  13. Lights. I love lights. I especially love those battery powered little ones that can be placed anywhere. I hate the short winter days and crave light to drive them away.

    Reply
  14. Lights. I love lights. I especially love those battery powered little ones that can be placed anywhere. I hate the short winter days and crave light to drive them away.

    Reply
  15. Lights. I love lights. I especially love those battery powered little ones that can be placed anywhere. I hate the short winter days and crave light to drive them away.

    Reply
  16. I used to go all out, with swags and the big real pine tree and lots of home-made and bought ornaments, and a wreath on the front door, etc, but these days I’m much more minimalist. A bunch of silver painted twigs, or a small, sometimes tiny “tree” made of a few springs of pine bound together — it’s the smell as much as anything. And since I make tiny things and jewelry, I make tiny decorations to go with the tiny tree.
    I also have lights — the sort that are strung on a long cord and are incredibly easy to use — just drape them wherever and switch on. I can see I’ll be getting more, because I enjoy them so much.

    Reply
  17. I used to go all out, with swags and the big real pine tree and lots of home-made and bought ornaments, and a wreath on the front door, etc, but these days I’m much more minimalist. A bunch of silver painted twigs, or a small, sometimes tiny “tree” made of a few springs of pine bound together — it’s the smell as much as anything. And since I make tiny things and jewelry, I make tiny decorations to go with the tiny tree.
    I also have lights — the sort that are strung on a long cord and are incredibly easy to use — just drape them wherever and switch on. I can see I’ll be getting more, because I enjoy them so much.

    Reply
  18. I used to go all out, with swags and the big real pine tree and lots of home-made and bought ornaments, and a wreath on the front door, etc, but these days I’m much more minimalist. A bunch of silver painted twigs, or a small, sometimes tiny “tree” made of a few springs of pine bound together — it’s the smell as much as anything. And since I make tiny things and jewelry, I make tiny decorations to go with the tiny tree.
    I also have lights — the sort that are strung on a long cord and are incredibly easy to use — just drape them wherever and switch on. I can see I’ll be getting more, because I enjoy them so much.

    Reply
  19. I used to go all out, with swags and the big real pine tree and lots of home-made and bought ornaments, and a wreath on the front door, etc, but these days I’m much more minimalist. A bunch of silver painted twigs, or a small, sometimes tiny “tree” made of a few springs of pine bound together — it’s the smell as much as anything. And since I make tiny things and jewelry, I make tiny decorations to go with the tiny tree.
    I also have lights — the sort that are strung on a long cord and are incredibly easy to use — just drape them wherever and switch on. I can see I’ll be getting more, because I enjoy them so much.

    Reply
  20. I used to go all out, with swags and the big real pine tree and lots of home-made and bought ornaments, and a wreath on the front door, etc, but these days I’m much more minimalist. A bunch of silver painted twigs, or a small, sometimes tiny “tree” made of a few springs of pine bound together — it’s the smell as much as anything. And since I make tiny things and jewelry, I make tiny decorations to go with the tiny tree.
    I also have lights — the sort that are strung on a long cord and are incredibly easy to use — just drape them wherever and switch on. I can see I’ll be getting more, because I enjoy them so much.

    Reply
  21. Lights are both practical and celebratory, aren’t they. It as one of the reasons I loved the winter walk at Basildon – all those sparkly little lights in the trees! I can imagine our ancestors were just the same with fire and light festivals to banish the darkness.

    Reply
  22. Lights are both practical and celebratory, aren’t they. It as one of the reasons I loved the winter walk at Basildon – all those sparkly little lights in the trees! I can imagine our ancestors were just the same with fire and light festivals to banish the darkness.

    Reply
  23. Lights are both practical and celebratory, aren’t they. It as one of the reasons I loved the winter walk at Basildon – all those sparkly little lights in the trees! I can imagine our ancestors were just the same with fire and light festivals to banish the darkness.

    Reply
  24. Lights are both practical and celebratory, aren’t they. It as one of the reasons I loved the winter walk at Basildon – all those sparkly little lights in the trees! I can imagine our ancestors were just the same with fire and light festivals to banish the darkness.

    Reply
  25. Lights are both practical and celebratory, aren’t they. It as one of the reasons I loved the winter walk at Basildon – all those sparkly little lights in the trees! I can imagine our ancestors were just the same with fire and light festivals to banish the darkness.

    Reply
  26. I must visit Basildon Hall sometime, preferably in spring or summer when the gardens are blooming. Thanks for the thumbs up!
    Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire is one of my favourites at Christmas. This year I believe that they have decorated with an 18th century twist … will re-visit sometime in the Christmas period.
    For decorations at home we use a fibre-optic tree, a little holly and mistletoe and string the dozens of Christmas cards around the walls and on the many book cases.
    Wishing a Merry Christmas to the wonderful wenches and their even more wonderful readers.

    Reply
  27. I must visit Basildon Hall sometime, preferably in spring or summer when the gardens are blooming. Thanks for the thumbs up!
    Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire is one of my favourites at Christmas. This year I believe that they have decorated with an 18th century twist … will re-visit sometime in the Christmas period.
    For decorations at home we use a fibre-optic tree, a little holly and mistletoe and string the dozens of Christmas cards around the walls and on the many book cases.
    Wishing a Merry Christmas to the wonderful wenches and their even more wonderful readers.

    Reply
  28. I must visit Basildon Hall sometime, preferably in spring or summer when the gardens are blooming. Thanks for the thumbs up!
    Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire is one of my favourites at Christmas. This year I believe that they have decorated with an 18th century twist … will re-visit sometime in the Christmas period.
    For decorations at home we use a fibre-optic tree, a little holly and mistletoe and string the dozens of Christmas cards around the walls and on the many book cases.
    Wishing a Merry Christmas to the wonderful wenches and their even more wonderful readers.

    Reply
  29. I must visit Basildon Hall sometime, preferably in spring or summer when the gardens are blooming. Thanks for the thumbs up!
    Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire is one of my favourites at Christmas. This year I believe that they have decorated with an 18th century twist … will re-visit sometime in the Christmas period.
    For decorations at home we use a fibre-optic tree, a little holly and mistletoe and string the dozens of Christmas cards around the walls and on the many book cases.
    Wishing a Merry Christmas to the wonderful wenches and their even more wonderful readers.

    Reply
  30. I must visit Basildon Hall sometime, preferably in spring or summer when the gardens are blooming. Thanks for the thumbs up!
    Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire is one of my favourites at Christmas. This year I believe that they have decorated with an 18th century twist … will re-visit sometime in the Christmas period.
    For decorations at home we use a fibre-optic tree, a little holly and mistletoe and string the dozens of Christmas cards around the walls and on the many book cases.
    Wishing a Merry Christmas to the wonderful wenches and their even more wonderful readers.

    Reply
  31. Since the grandchildren have become parents, we don’t decorate our home anymore. Getting old will do that to a person (or couple).
    I have found memories of the trees my parents had, as well as the trees my children and I shared in their early years. I was teaching then, so I bought a tree for the classroom, for the children there to decorate as they wished. When school closed for the Christmas break, that paper decorated tree came home and the children and I added lights, and ornaments. Each year I bout 3 new ornaments. When the children moved out they took their personal ornaments with them.
    It was always our family tradition to decorate as a family (helping Santa) as opposed to have Santa to the tree. So a shared tree didn’t bother my children at all. When I moved to editorial work, we no longer shared the tree, but we still decorated it at home, adding new and familiar ornaments each year.

    Reply
  32. Since the grandchildren have become parents, we don’t decorate our home anymore. Getting old will do that to a person (or couple).
    I have found memories of the trees my parents had, as well as the trees my children and I shared in their early years. I was teaching then, so I bought a tree for the classroom, for the children there to decorate as they wished. When school closed for the Christmas break, that paper decorated tree came home and the children and I added lights, and ornaments. Each year I bout 3 new ornaments. When the children moved out they took their personal ornaments with them.
    It was always our family tradition to decorate as a family (helping Santa) as opposed to have Santa to the tree. So a shared tree didn’t bother my children at all. When I moved to editorial work, we no longer shared the tree, but we still decorated it at home, adding new and familiar ornaments each year.

    Reply
  33. Since the grandchildren have become parents, we don’t decorate our home anymore. Getting old will do that to a person (or couple).
    I have found memories of the trees my parents had, as well as the trees my children and I shared in their early years. I was teaching then, so I bought a tree for the classroom, for the children there to decorate as they wished. When school closed for the Christmas break, that paper decorated tree came home and the children and I added lights, and ornaments. Each year I bout 3 new ornaments. When the children moved out they took their personal ornaments with them.
    It was always our family tradition to decorate as a family (helping Santa) as opposed to have Santa to the tree. So a shared tree didn’t bother my children at all. When I moved to editorial work, we no longer shared the tree, but we still decorated it at home, adding new and familiar ornaments each year.

    Reply
  34. Since the grandchildren have become parents, we don’t decorate our home anymore. Getting old will do that to a person (or couple).
    I have found memories of the trees my parents had, as well as the trees my children and I shared in their early years. I was teaching then, so I bought a tree for the classroom, for the children there to decorate as they wished. When school closed for the Christmas break, that paper decorated tree came home and the children and I added lights, and ornaments. Each year I bout 3 new ornaments. When the children moved out they took their personal ornaments with them.
    It was always our family tradition to decorate as a family (helping Santa) as opposed to have Santa to the tree. So a shared tree didn’t bother my children at all. When I moved to editorial work, we no longer shared the tree, but we still decorated it at home, adding new and familiar ornaments each year.

    Reply
  35. Since the grandchildren have become parents, we don’t decorate our home anymore. Getting old will do that to a person (or couple).
    I have found memories of the trees my parents had, as well as the trees my children and I shared in their early years. I was teaching then, so I bought a tree for the classroom, for the children there to decorate as they wished. When school closed for the Christmas break, that paper decorated tree came home and the children and I added lights, and ornaments. Each year I bout 3 new ornaments. When the children moved out they took their personal ornaments with them.
    It was always our family tradition to decorate as a family (helping Santa) as opposed to have Santa to the tree. So a shared tree didn’t bother my children at all. When I moved to editorial work, we no longer shared the tree, but we still decorated it at home, adding new and familiar ornaments each year.

    Reply
  36. Love the tiny tree idea I have a friend who uses a twiggy branch in a pot, just the right size to sit on a side table. It is adorned with rustic decorations in keeping with its charm. Merry Christmas 🎄

    Reply
  37. Love the tiny tree idea I have a friend who uses a twiggy branch in a pot, just the right size to sit on a side table. It is adorned with rustic decorations in keeping with its charm. Merry Christmas 🎄

    Reply
  38. Love the tiny tree idea I have a friend who uses a twiggy branch in a pot, just the right size to sit on a side table. It is adorned with rustic decorations in keeping with its charm. Merry Christmas 🎄

    Reply
  39. Love the tiny tree idea I have a friend who uses a twiggy branch in a pot, just the right size to sit on a side table. It is adorned with rustic decorations in keeping with its charm. Merry Christmas 🎄

    Reply
  40. Love the tiny tree idea I have a friend who uses a twiggy branch in a pot, just the right size to sit on a side table. It is adorned with rustic decorations in keeping with its charm. Merry Christmas 🎄

    Reply
  41. We’re pretty low-key. We decorate our tree (which is not real) and put a cloth wreath (made in kindergarten by our daughter) on the front door. We do enjoy playing our collection of Christmas CDs throughout the month.
    Happy holidays to you all!

    Reply
  42. We’re pretty low-key. We decorate our tree (which is not real) and put a cloth wreath (made in kindergarten by our daughter) on the front door. We do enjoy playing our collection of Christmas CDs throughout the month.
    Happy holidays to you all!

    Reply
  43. We’re pretty low-key. We decorate our tree (which is not real) and put a cloth wreath (made in kindergarten by our daughter) on the front door. We do enjoy playing our collection of Christmas CDs throughout the month.
    Happy holidays to you all!

    Reply
  44. We’re pretty low-key. We decorate our tree (which is not real) and put a cloth wreath (made in kindergarten by our daughter) on the front door. We do enjoy playing our collection of Christmas CDs throughout the month.
    Happy holidays to you all!

    Reply
  45. We’re pretty low-key. We decorate our tree (which is not real) and put a cloth wreath (made in kindergarten by our daughter) on the front door. We do enjoy playing our collection of Christmas CDs throughout the month.
    Happy holidays to you all!

    Reply

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