Imagine childhood images of Christmas, picture books, movies and greeting cards and chances are you'll be thinking about Christmas with the National Trust.
These are the kinds of settings and houses that are The National Trust's stock in trade. As one of the UK's most important organizations for the protection and preservation of its stately homes, historic houses, important landscapes and gardens, the National Trust maintains dozens of 16th, 17th and 18th century manors, Victorian and Edwardian country estates. It's hard to imagine more appropriate settings for gigantic Christmas trees, punch bowls full of mulled wine, Christmas music and all the other festive elements of the holiday season.
Spending Christmas with the National Trust
The National Trust agrees and, every year many of its most important homes and landscapes are open for special events throughout the holiday season. There are decorating and Christmas cooking workshops, late night gift shopping, Christmas concerts and special meals, Dickens readings and lots of twinkling, decorated houses and gardens.
Here are just a few of the 2016 highlights
(Hint: Click on "What's On" links at each property's website for full details):
- Attingham Park The fascinating and recently restored Shropshire house, near Shrewsbury, goes back to the 1920s for Christmas 2016. Discover the Christmas traditions of the resident family during this colorful era. Father Christmas will be holding court in his study and several special, twightlight, after school visits are planned. See what else is planned at Attingham.
- Waddesdon Manor, the spectacular Rothschild party house, always does amazing decorations over the holiday season. For 2016, decorated rooms will be open on selected dates between November 9 to January 2. The theme is Magical Materials and the decorations feature rare and exotic materials from the earth and sea. There's a Christmas Fair, a variety of cookery and decorations workshops and an amazing two-meter long gingerbread model of the house in the Coach House. Dazzle@Waddesdon, a son et lumiere, will illuminated the facade every fifteen minutes from dusk, throughout the holiday period. See what else is on at Waddesdon.
- Tyntesfield This Victorian Gothic Revival fantasy of a house is located in North Somerset, near Bristol. Their full schedule of holiday events in December has something for everyone in the family. The house is open from November 26 through early January for an immersive holiday experience populated by Victorian characters. Cooking, storytelling, games and a chance to visit Father Christmas are all planned. The Gibbs Family Ball, an immersive walking theater event, will be held on two nights; there's Nutcracker storytelling for tots, several night visits to the house, wreath-making workshops with greenery from the estate, and a chance to see the house "all aglow" from lit paths through the gardens.
- Trerice A Tudor Father Christmas will be telling tales and sending young audience members home with brown paper packages tied up with string on selected dates at this treasure of a Tudor house. .Plus there's three dates available to join "Sir John Arundell" in 1573 to feast on a four-course banquet in his fine new house, with period music and entertainments.
- Polesden Lacey The Christmas schedule at this magnificent home, within an hour's drive of London, had not yet been announced as of September 2016 but if past years are anything to go by, you can expect room after room of stunning decorations, choirs, bands, visits from Father Christmas and tasty Christmas treats. The house belonged to a famous Edwardian hostess, Mrs. Greville and the late Queen Mother spent her honeymoon there. She thought the house was delicious. Unusually for a National Trust property in winter, Polesden Lacey - house, gardens, grounds, shop and cafe - is open throughout the month of December.
- Castle Ward, Co. Down, Northern Ireland Santa and Mrs. Claus are welcoming visitors to their new home during selected dates in December. A Christmas Family Trail is also in the works.
- The Christmas Garland at Cotehele The famous 60-foot long garland has more than 36,000 dried flowers, all grown in Cotehele's gardens. They've been making it at this Cornwall house and garden for 60 years. In 2016, the 60th anniversary year, you can visit to watch the gardeners put it together, between November 1 and 11. Later, on dates throughout November and December, 27 different choirs, bell ringers and musical ensembles will perform under the garland. This house's holiday schedule is so jam packed that it starts in November. There's a food fair, a Father Christmas Trail, arts and crafts activities, and a chance to visit Mr. and Mrs. Claus at home. My favorite is the invitation to don your fancy dress costumes, bring your loudest musical instruments and noisemakers and jointhe pagan festival of wassailing on December 17to scare away evil spirits from the orchards.
- Killerton Grimm's Fairy Tales are the theme in 2016 with this Devon house transformed, inside and out, plus twinkling lights decorating the grounds.There's a Christmas farmer's market, a harp concert and workshops in wreath making, dressing a festive fireplace and setting a holiday table. Father Christmas, dressed in traditional Victorian green, will make three separate visits, with gifts for children younger than 8 years old.
- Ickworth House is returning to the 1930s for Christmas in 2016. In November, you can join the Living History 1930s bakers to get a head start on holiday preparations or, with the Living History cooks, make a traditional Christmas putting to take home for the family. Tour the 1930s basement in December to see what life was like for Christmas 1935. Discover life as a servant in the 1930s, take part in wreath-making workshops and enjoy Christmas craftmaking that's geared for grownups. As a special treat for grownups, by the way, the kids can use up some pent up holiday energy with New Year's Eve craft workshops on Boxing Day.
- Speke Hall Celebrate a Victorian Christmas at Liverpool's famous black and white, half-timbered estate.Victorian decorations, tours, craft displays, carols, children's activities, food and drink. In 2016 there are Victorian Christmas weekends - with donkey rides, Christmas trails, carols and Father Christmas; Victorian Christmas Fridays, four carol concerts in the decorated Great Hall followed by refreshments, and Christmas decorating workshops.