Discover Christmas at Petworth House

The National Trust’s Petworth House is offering you the chance to discover “Christmas before tinsel and turkey” (until January 5).

Christmas at Petworth
Christmas at Petworth

Spokeswoman Gina Dudjan said: “Escape the ordinary and step back in time to a bygone Christmas. Discover traditions old and familiar from a time before fairy lights and Christmas trees and learn about the history of the Christmas feast and Georgian dining in the servants’ quarters. Find out how the festive season was celebrated in traditional Georgian style at Petworth House. See selected rooms of the mansion and Servants’ Quarters dressed for a Christmas before turkey and tinsel, before fairy lights and Christmas trees became a tradition, and join us when we cut the Christmas cheese.

“Walk through the different rooms decorated for a 19th-century Christmas and discover traditions both old and new in a cosy, relaxed atmosphere.

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“Most of the Christmas traditions we celebrate nowadays, including Christmas cards, crackers and turkey, became popular in the Victorian era. We are turning the clocks back a bit further, to the Georgian period. Learn about the history of Christmas trees, find out what the most popular presents would have been and play some traditional family games.

“Start your journey with one of our highlight talks in the medieval chapel, with its colourful stained-glass windows atmospherically reflecting the light of a candle display. Talks are held every half-hour, 11am-3.30pm. Learn about how Christmas was celebrated 200 years ago: What was the most popular Christmas gift? Was there a family-favourite board game? How was the Christmas dinner prepared and what exactly is a ‘Christmas cheese’? Your journey continues through the Oak Hall, where Charlotte’s tree tells the history of Christmas trees. From the legend of Martin Luther at the bottom of the tree, working its way up to traditional tree decorations of the 17th, 18th and 19th century at the top, find out how families dressed their tree before tinsel was invented. During this immersive experience, discover an elaborately dressed dining table laid for a banquet. Dotted with show-stopping centrepieces of foliage, grapes and pineapples, luxuries of the Georgian era, the feast sits beside a grand log-burning fireplace to keep away the crisp winter air.

“Take part in parlour games popular at the time and settle down with a game of cards in the Somerset Room. Or explore Georgian fashion and try on some of the historic outfits that were popular 200 years ago when Petworth House was home to the 3rd Earl and Elizabeth Ilive.”

Professional costumed interpreters will visit Petworth House on December 27, 28 and 29, as well as January 1 and 2, demonstrating some of the most impressive Georgian outfits: “In contrast to the grand state rooms, delve below stairs in the servants’ quarters and discover the lengths the servants have gone to prepare for the occasion in Petworth House.”