Visitors to Auckland Castle will be able to revel in a Georgian style Christmas this year as the countdown to the festive season gets under way.
The clock is being turned back to the 18th century as the heritage attraction draws Yuletide inspiration from our Georgian ancestors.
The Bishop Auckland-based palace will be quite literally decked with boughs of holly and other greenery as the outside is brought indoors to brighten the chapel, galleries and state rooms in true Georgian festive fashion.
People will be able to get a taste for Georgian festive fare with proper minced meat pies – the forerunner of our modern day sweet treats – and other seasonal goodies available to try in the castle’s tea room.
The festivities will get underway on November 21 when Auckland Castle hosts a three day Christmas craft and gift market. The event complements a festive fair being held over the same weekend in Bishop Auckland Market Place.
More than 20 local and North East businesses will be setting out their stalls in the castle grounds with a range of foods and handcrafted gifts on sale.
The Auckland Castle Tearoom will also be selling hampers packed full of homemade seasonal goodies.
Clare Baron, assistant curator at Auckland Castle, says: “The garden and park staff have already identified the very best holly, ivy and pine cones growing in the castle’s grounds which we’ll be making up into garlands and wreaths to deck the palace with.
“The festive season is a time when the true spirit of great houses like Auckland Castle really comes to life.”
Auckland Castle has chosen a Georgian Christmas because while the building is at its heart medieval, it was substantially remodelled in the late 1700s.
This year also marks the 300th anniversary since the House of Hanover ascended the British throne with four Georges wearing the crown from 1714 onwards, giving their name to a nearly century long era in UK history.
Clare adds: “Given these two connections it seemed apt that we should serve up a proper Georgian celebration.”
Feasting and partying were very much a part of Georgian revelries as they are now. And contrary to general belief, the Georgians did have a Christmas tree. It was brought to Britain in 1800 by the Hanoverian Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. It was lit with tapers and draped around were strings of almonds and raisins.
Auckland Castle’s fir tree will be decorated with electric candle lights, but one Georgian tradition that will be repeated in time honoured fashion is that of the Kissing Bough.
A ball of greenery with seasonal fruit hung from ribbons, it was the precursor to the bunch of mistletoe, under which no lady could refuse a kiss – as long as a berry was plucked off at the same time.
“It’s a lovely tradition,” says Clare. “The idea was that visitors would be embraced beneath it so any enmity would be forgotten.
“We hope our visitors will use it to leave any bad feeling at the front door and come in and enjoy the season of goodwill in style.”
The Auckland Castle Christmas craft and gift market takes place on November 21 from 3pm-7pm and November 22 and 23 from 10am-4pm. The event is free to attend but normal castle admission prices apply. www.aucklandcastle.org