Last year, Christmas 2020, we were lucky enough to be able to open for a few tours over a two-week period before a fairly grim year came to a sudden and sooner than anticipated close. In any year, Christmas offers a moment in our busy lives to pause and wonder and to take part in a story but it seemed particularly appropriate that year, in terms of decoration and theme, that we should anchor ourselves in reds and greens, Charles Dickens and all things traditional: to look for reassurance and comfort from the past.
One of the unexpected results of last year’s November lockdown was that we had time to be able to make a programme with Channel 4 about getting ready for Christmas. It kept us occupied and was obviously sufficiently entertaining that it is being shown again this year on Saturday December 4th at tea time, 4.30pm.
Sitting down with chief Christmas Elf Sally in January of this year, with everything closed down and, like everyone else, feeling somewhat low and worried, we made a plan for Christmas 2021.
We thought it should be entirely different and looked at lightness and at white and frosty themes. In fact, since we were locked down for, as it turned out, months on end, Sally took the opportunity to make some of the garlands during those wintery months.
This was just as well as it turned to be rather bigger project than anticipated since, of course, neither Christmas trees nor the castle are really white. So instead of highlighting them as we have done in the past, the decorations had to be rather more transformative. The garland on the main staircase took hours of work, there is a second, even longer garland on the red staircase (the original Georgian one) plus Luis wanted one to go all round his Christmas marquee as well as a centre piece (Santa’s sledge and some arctic tree stems).
Meanwhile, the courtyard is a tour de force and the arch garland looks so beautiful.
Apart from the outside decorations and garlands, there are of course many trees inside.
The main tree required perseverance, a team of six and nearly 1,000 baubles to make it look white. Each State Room has at least one and often two 6ft – 8ft trees and all need to be decorated. Meanwhile, two of Sally’s gift shop elves made their way around the mantelshelves which is a delicate operation and the result is exquisite. Lastly, the large floral decorations create eyecatchers at mid-level throughout the rooms.
We are nearly finished with our preparations and it does feel light and bright, something we all miss at this time of year. It gets dark so early now and at Highclere we all try to head out for our walks before it is too late to get our dose of winter sunshine, vitamin D and all the consequential health benefits.
Now that the wind has stripped most of the outside trees of their amazing Autumn colours, the dark firs of Christmas make the lights pop even more and contrast with the reflective decorations.
Of course light can only illuminate if it opposes the dark, a theme which is universal to almost all philosophies and religions almost to the point where, if there is only darkness, the universe and our world will not exist. We learn in the Bible that the ‘the earth was without form, and void’ until God caused light to exist: ‘Let there be light.’ Likewise, in Hindu writings: ‘Lead me from in me from the unreal to the real.’ Equally, the French philosopher Descartes believed that someone seeking truth in the sciences must first consider how to increase his “natural light of reason,” the cognitive abilities with which he is naturally endowed.
Light has so many interpretations and attributes: lightness of spirit, the light of intellectual curiosity, the illumination of thought and education. We hope to see the light and perhaps it may suddenly dawn upon us as it did in the story of the journey of the Magi.
However, whilst our theme this year is all about the white and frosty, the welcome from the Highclere team is anything but as we wait for our guests. And if the large gentleman in the very red velvet costume needs some extras when he arrives with all his gifts, we have some spare reindeer on the front lawn although this year they are sporting white bows, not red ones. Of course.
Lady Carnarvon, so uplifting and delightful. Perfect happy feeling!
Oh how lovely all of it is! Thank you, Lady Carnarvon, for giving us who live across the pond a glimpse of Christmas at Highclere Castle. Wishing you and yours and wonderful holiday season.
I am sure there was a lot of hard work and planning that went into getting Highclere to look so beautiful. Well done all. ❤️X
Dear Lady and Lord Carnarvon,
How exquisite, how magical the Christmas at Highclere decorations and how uplifting to share the beauty via your photos and post. The great hall tree is especially breathtaking!
You have brought some much needed light and wonder to my life at a darkening time of year.
Happy Christmas and a joyous New year to you and your family.
Totally beautiful, Lady Carnarvon. Classy! Thank you so much for the description and pics!
Love the whiteness… It’s so uplifting and pretty
Happy Christmas to you all
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
You and your team have achieved a beautiful effect! Glorious light! Proceeding carefully, we have much to be thankful for this season.
Thank you for your continuing inspiration. Happy Thanksgiving from the northeast USA! While it is distinctly an American holiday, it is the start of the festive season!!
Hoping that you all continue to be well.
Charlotte Merriam Cole
Wishing you all at Highclere a very merry Christmas.
What a lovely idea to use frosty decorations this year. That sounds very refreshing and everything in your pictures looks absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us! I’ve been blessed to visit Highclere two times, but I think to see it during the Christmas holiday must be magical!
It is very magical!
Dear Lady Carnarvon! What a beautiful Winter wonderland! A very merry Christmas and many greetings from Austria!
Wishing you and yours a beautiful Advent, as the season makes its way to a very Happy Christmas! Best wishes, too, for a happy, healthy, and successful New Year. May visitors be able to return and wonderful programs abound!
Hello Lady Carnarvon. I really enjoy reading your blogs. I always learn so much from you. You really are a treasure to us all ! Beautiful Christmas decorations that really put a smile on your face. I hope you and your family have a very blessed holiday ! Sincerely , Cindy Lam
“You really are a treasure to us all!”
Beautiful words and wonderings! Light for all the season of hope!
Beautiful words and wonderings! Light for all this season of hope!
Thank you so very much for sharing your beautiful pictures and plans again with us , it keeps my mood alive.
I just lost my dear mom this summer on pancreatic cancer and I’m afraid of Christmas, this year but looking at your beautiful pictures, reminds me that Christmas means Hope and Love ❤️
Thank you so very much
I am so so sorry for you! It is about somehow keeping going
So beautiful, white and light! You and Sally and the “elves” have done a wonderful job of getting Highclere ready for the Holidays. May you have a most Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!
Thank you – Happy Holiday season to you too!
How beautiful to see the end result of all the planning and work. Now you get to enjoy. Wishing you, your family, and staff the most wonderful Christmas and New Year.
Thank You for this beautiful article on the light of Christmas. After a year of darkness due to losing my husband to Covid-19’s it was a pleasure reading your blog. May you and yours have a beautiful Christmas.
Thank you so much for your wonderful descriptions. We were too late to book for this year but will certainly be paying a visit next year. I wonder how early we can book…?
we ten to sort tickets in the summer
Having just visited Highclere in November for a delightful day, I truly feel the Christmas transformation in the Castle with your photos.
Wishing all a Happy Holiday Season and a return to normal in 2022.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
the Castle looks amazing! I watched your Christmas tree go up on Instagram at the weekend, a feat to behold and a huge team effort. I think Christmas is going to start early this year to make up for last year, although I do feel for our Austrian friends, I hope they come out of lockdown in time for Christmas. With any luck they will have a good dose of snow to kill of any viruses. I wonder if we will get a white Christmas this year.
Your decorations are just lovely! Thanks for sharing! You have a wonderful staff to make Highclere always look magnificent especially at Christmas! Wishing your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Happy Christmas to you too!
Kudos to your “wonderful staff”❣
We are heartfelt in our appreciation for their efforts as this week our family embarks on our 12th (or so) year of decorating the Senior Residential community that my husband works at. Each year I pull out my Christmas Dresses to wear during the 2-3 day decorating extravaganza. At first all 3 children participated & we each had our roles: one put up the many trees, one added the lights, etc. Now it is just our youngest who helps (the older 2 having jobs & children keeping their schedules more than full). At 19, she has grown up with this yearly event & could carry on handily should I be unable, which is a comfort as this project is very dear to my heart and brings so much joy to the residents. It is our small way to participate in the reason for this season – Christ’s gift of himself for humanity.
Lady Carnarvon, the castle is so beautiful. You do so much I don’t know how you have time to write such a wouldful blog. Have a great holiday and hopefully I will see you next year.
For those of us who have none of these decorations, please offer up a prayer.
YES. SO GOOD, MY DARLING.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I think the white looks beautiful and evokes a touch of magic. I know it took many hours to create and place all the decorations. How many hours did it actually take, after the decorations were created and made by Sally, to decorate the house and grounds? Highclere looks beautiful. Great job Sally and Highclere team.
Thank you for the Christmas present that is your weekly blogs. We appreciate you taking the time to educate, inspire and make our world a better place. We were schedule to be in England during December but Cunard cancelled our voyage, otherwise we might have gotten to see the results of all the work that goes into decorating the Castle in person. We wish you and your family a Happy Christmas.
Maybe next year?
Greetings from FL Lady Carnarvon,
I am sitting reading your Blog while drinking my morning tea in my Keep Calm and Carry On mug! So grateful and wonderful that you and Head Elf Sally and her team came up with a beautiful decor switch to raise light and spirits inside & outside Highclere given this Christmas Seasons decorations and you included photos in your blog. Absolutely stunning and spirit raising. Well done to you and all who were part of planning and executing! I am glad for those of you there in England as the production of your preparations last year will be shown again on Channel 4, but sad for us across the Pond and throughout the World who are fans of yours and Highclere that we cannot watch it. I did try and search the internet last December to see if I could stream it but never was successful. As this is our week here in the United States leading to our National Holiday of Thanksgiving, I am SO thankful I’ve had the opportunity to visit Highclere (pre pandemic) and am a subscriber to your Blog as it is always so enlightening and uplifting. Remain well going forward, and prayers going out that you & Sally in the Gift Shop have many healthy visitors on site see the stunning Castle (and maybe even you & Elf Sally!) during holiday season tours.
Lady Carnarvon lovely pictures of lightness and lovely Christmas it my Boxing Day
Did you lord Carnarvon lovely weekend and lovely visit highcelere castle
Thank you so much for your lovely weekly blog. Happy Christmas to you and yours!
What a lovely read on a cloudy morning! The beautiful lights and whiteness against the gorgeous colors of the rooms at Highclere Castle are so heart-warming and welcoming. Wish we could be there to wish you a Happy Christmas and a clear New Year, and may God send us a 2022 much cheerier than 2021!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Enjoyed your lovely pictures and commentary about all the preparations for the season. While the family rooms are done in tartan (husband is Scottish descent) my formal rooms are always a combination of white, silver and platinum…it is a magical look! Was hoping you would include a few of your favorite Christmas recipes in the recipe section. Wishing you and your entire family joyous Holidays! Wishing the world peace and to be able to put this pandemic in our rear view mirror once and for all!
Thank you – wishing you a wonderful holiday!
Howdy from Dallas!
Christmas is my favorite time of the year to decorate! All the pictures look beautiful!
I actually decided this year to change my decor up with white also! I love January because I get to take my customers to Market and get their orders placed for the upcoming year to decorate their homes. I had several clients that decided to switch it up this year too! I am going to forward them your blog.
Is there a way to see the special on the Internet?
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you so much for sharing the transformation of your home into one of the most Beautiful Christmas Wonderlands. Looking forward to coming on December 8th with my daughter to see the magic of Highclere Castle. Wouldn’t it be Amazing if it would snow on the day!❄️☃️❄️❤️
I look forward to seeing you on 8th December!
Thank your these inspiring words of your preparations. It warms my heart to think of the beautiful white decorations!
Another beautifull blog. You’ve made me feel very Christmassy. I keep thinking you’d love what they do here in our next village at one the castles. They host Winterträume and an equivalent venture in spring when a lot of vendors set up huts and sell their beautiful wares. Maybe you already do something similar. Everything is decked out beautifully with lights and sparkles and the smell of Glühwein and roasted almonds fill the air. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmastime! I hope we can manage to see the Christmas special here in Germany.
At Highclere we have a Christmas Fair for 3 days in December
The castle looks glorious, festive, and hopeful for a healing and prosperous 2022. I was prepared to fly to England to hear Gerald Dickens perform the reading of “A Christmas Carol” at Highclere, but by the time I discovered it, tickets were all sold. We will fly to Philadelphia from Chicago instead, to have the privilege of hearing him before he returns home to England for the holidays. Happy Christmas to you, and all who work so hard year round at Highclere.
Enjoy your reading of ‘A Christmas Carol’
Lady Carnarvon it is my birthday àt christmàs
The castle and grounds look absolutely enchanting and like a fairy land. Thank you so very much for the glorious pictures of your home and surroundings, and for writing a beautiful text to enlighten and to bring such joy to your readers.
Merry Christmas from Atlantic Canada!!
Jeanne Kaye Speight
Fredericton NB Canada
I was trying to imagine what “the man in red” would look like if he was in white! Either way, I will be tracking his journey on Christmas Eve at http://www.noradsanta.org
Happy Christmas and Boxing Day!
Terrific post on the lovely decorations and the importance of light. I do hope to visit Highclere again, but in the winter on the next trip.
I so appreciate your beautifully written posts, they always provide a welcome little mini-break.
Sending you the very best holiday wishes from warm Florida!
Thank you for the info on decorating Highclere for Christmas. It looks so magical and gives one lots of Christmas spirit. In my dreams I will visit Highclere for the holidays. I have the Christmas book and it is part of my Christmas decor here in the US.
* * *
Very special atmosphere.
Have a great time in the real spirit of Christmas. ❄
Thank you, dear Lady Carnarvon.
Thank you! Absolutely beautiful!
The detailed planning has truly come to fruition with such a beautiful display. I usually go with the traditional green and red, but I must say the white is uplifting and quite stunning. Well done!
I know that you have been complimented before on your photography.. which I will do again.
Is it possible to view these shots, in a larger format. Having been a photographer all my life, I’d like to see a little more detail. Thanks.
You are kind – I think my photography is not so good!
May you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy 2022!
Highclere is always beautiful, but during Christmas, with all the decorations (no matter the color), it is almost magical. Thank you for sharing the wonderful pictures of it with us! Here in the States, the Christmas special was not available for viewing. I am hoping that will that will change this year. Wishing you, your family and your staff and very Blessed and Happy Christmas!
I wish they did share the TV programme – it will make you smile!
Absolutely beautiful, you all did such a marvelous job and Santa, (Paul McTaggart) look smashing as the quintessential perfect Santa! Happy Christmas!
Beautiful theme and decorations! Truly fitting and looking forward to this holiday season…with caution of course. Do take care.
Love from Canada.
And you too – thank you!
Dear Lady Carnarvon: Thank you for another inspiring and uplifting message. I can only imagine the magnificent beauty of Highclere Castle at Christmastime. Once again, I will be reading “Christmas at Highclere” and enjoying the lovely photographs and recipes. Wishing you a wonderful holiday from the USA.
Enjoy reading ‘Christmas at Highclere’
very beautiful. thank you again for sharing from all of me in cornwall ontario canada to you.
Highclere looks so beautiful, bright and shining. Still hoping to get there in the next year or two. I’ve had 3 jabs, so at least I’m fairly safe.
Mele Kalikimaka, Hau’oli makahiki hou, from Hawaii Island.
Your Christmas decorations are just right with the times. They offer illumination from the darkness we have experienced. The garlands and white flowers are magical.
One of my childhood favorite things about this time of year was turning on the Christmas lights on the evening of Thanksgiving. Nowadays, with mass merchandising and retailers trying to make an early buck, it has really dampened the Christmas tradition a bit. A lot of people are decorating early – even my coworkers are rustling about with their add ons to their cubicles. So thank you for the blog about Light!
Happy to say that I and my wife will be in New York City during part of the Christmas holiday. The Tree at Radio City is now being decorated and will be ablaze sometime in December. The Hotel that I stay at reopened their doors just a week ago. If we all get the vaccine and booster perhaps with in a year We can say that Normalcy has returned!
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for your Monday blog and for sharing all the attention to detail you, Lord Carnarvon, and Highclere’s staff put forth in preparing for the upcoming holiday season.
Last weekend, I watched on Facebook the raising of the Christmas tree at the Castle. What an endeavor with beautiful end results.
On Thursday, November 25, 2021, we will celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States. The holiday season will officially start at that time.
Until next week, may you have a good week.
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
GOOD NIGHT FROM BRAZIL WARM DAY IN RIO CLARO 37 °CELSIUS SPRING -SUMMER.
MILADY, IT SEEMS THAT THIS YEAR FROM THE PHOTOGRAPHS I HAVE JUST SEEN WE WILL HAVE IN HIGHCLERE CASTLE A LOT OF FLUFFY AND WHITE SNOW , LIKE THIS YEAR’S CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS, AM I WRONG ?????
BEST WISHES TO YOU AND TO THE STAFF OF THE CASTLE .CONGRATULATIONS.
RIO CLARO – SP
You won’t get any vitamin D at this time of the year outside in our Northern latitude Take the tablets and cod liver oil lol
We were able to enjoy the lovely rich reds, greens and golds at Highclere for Christmas 2019. It was spectacular and the music was wonderful and surreal as we stood up in the gallery looking down into the Saloon watching and listening to the performance. When we went down the stairs and the next group was ready to perform, we were standing near one of the archways and the lady at her post lifted the barrier for us to step a bit farther into the room to enjoy it more. I love the sparkle and glitter of “lightness” that has been created for 2021! Wishing all at Highclere a wonderful Christmas season and Prosperous and Healthy New Year!
Thank you for your continued works! What lovely photos! A very Happy Christmas to you and yours!
Absolutely stunning. Job well done. The beauty of Christmas is all around. Christmas blessings to all. Thank you for sharing this.
Lady Carnarvon lovely pictures of lightness and lovely Christmas decorations and Christmas song and mince pies and Christmas cards
Just beautiful! Love the largest tree decorated in white and that frosty snowy look of the garlands. I, too, was picturing Santa as Father Christmas dressed in white.
Merry Christmas to you all at Highclere!
I love your photos and descriptions – please keep them coming!
Your home is breathtaking everyday. Now I’m at a loss to tell you how simply gorgeous it is dressed in it’s holiday finery. I wager to say that many of us would enjoy using your home’s decor (slightly modified) as inspiration in our homes. In fact, I think I’m off to some shop for some decorations at my favorite home decor DIY store tomorrow! Thank you for sharing this as well as your daily observations. Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Regards,
Jan Ely Aronson
Merry Christmas to you too!
Dear Lady Carnarvon
Very nice decorations.
I love lights everywhere.
Gives your spirits a lift.
Phyllis Simpson USA
Thank you, dear Lady Carnarvon, for reminding us all that preferring the light is a choice within our capabilities. We are not condemned to the gloom and darkness on any level. And in the holiday season, it is lovely, refreshing and encouraging to remember that the light is always there to choose.
Thank you profoundly for such an uplifting reminder and such another example of your exquisite taste and artistic eye. You have given the world a gift! Thank you!
MA CHÉRRIE LADY CARNARVON,
MON DIEU, IL NEIGE AT ” HIGHCLERE CASTLE ” AUJOURHUI. CE MERVEILLEUR .DU VOIR ICI ,CETTE NEIGE BLANCHE ,ELLE ME SAMBLE BLEAU.
MERCI BEAUCOUP. CE INSTAGRAM EST TRES JOLIE.
RIO CLARO – SP
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
We were the first tour of the season and we’re so touched that you and your husband (and your wonderful dogs) personally welcomed us into your home! You made us feel very welcome and this experience including afternoon tea was beyond my expectations and will be remembered for years to come! My only regret is that I didn’t get to go run with your dogs and play with them!
With many thanks,
New Jersey, USA