I tend to be a bit last minute when it comes to Christmas. My tree goes up the weekend before, presents are wrapped on Christmas Eve and that’s when I really start to feel festive. But this year things have happened to get me into the Christmas mood a little sooner.
At the weekend I went to Castle Howard which is better known to many people as Brideshead as it was the location for both the 1981 TV series and the 2008 film of Brideshead Revisited. As it’s only about half an hour from where I live I’ve been many times. I’ve even been lucky enough to have been on a tour with the Honourable Simon Howard as our guide which took us into rooms which are not usually open to the public.
In December the house is dressed for Christmas. We’re talking a Downtonesque type country house Christmas. Imagine having a tree so large you need a small crane to get the angel on the top or owning beautiful Christmas decorations that have been in the family since the 1920s like these gorgeous little birds with the peacock feather tails.
There’s trees in pretty much every room, from small gold or silver twig style affairs to the enormous fir in the Great Hall. But the decorations don’t stop there. The usually dour Greek statues are decked with holly and ivy; candles burn all over the house and amazing, extravagant flower arrangements fill mantle pieces and tables. With a jazz band playing Christmas classics in the Long Gallery you’d have to have a heart like Scrooge’s before the ghosts started dropping in to not feel a warm and fuzzy glow of festive cheer.
Later that afternoon I went to a mumming play at the house of a friend. This was my first ever mumming play which, as someone who’s fascinated by folklore and folk music, is a bit of an oversight on my part. It was delightful in a homemade kind of way. Saint George was killed in a sword fight by a baddy with snakes for hair (I think I’ve got that bit right – he was actually wearing a purple wig) and was cured by a slightly dodgy doctor who used holly and ivy to bring him back from the dead. Old Mother Mud’s son, Tom flew to the moon and came home with the nativity in a basket. There was a very different kind of magic in it but a magic all the same.
Whatever you’re doing this Christmas I wish you a very happy one. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog over the past six months. It’s been great to have your company and to read your comments.
Have a very Merry Christmas!