We are so lucky at the Trust to have properties where traces of Christmas past still remain. At Strokestown Park the focus is on a ‘Victorian Christmas’, greenery is brought in from the estate to ‘deck the halls’ and one tree is decorated with original Victorian candle holders left by the Pakenham-Mahon family. At Fota we know what life was life both above and below stairs on Christmas Day. On Christmas morning the family went to church and delivered Christmas gifts to their tenants. For lunch on Christmas day, the family served themselves a cold lunch (one of the few times they served themselves at lunch or dinner) while the servants ate their Christmas dinner downstairs. In the evening the family changed into fancy dress costumes that they kept in a big trunk in the attic. At exactly 8 o’clock they returned downstairs and the servants assembled in rows at either side of the hall and bowed to each family member as they went past into the Dining Room (was this a show of deference or was it to play along with the fancy dress theme?) The family would then drink from a loving cup and eat their lavish dinner. Their dinner usually consisted of a humungous turkey and all the trimmings plus of course a Christmas pudding made the previous Christmas, so that it was extra rich and dark. Once finished eating they played games in the Library late into the night.
You can hear more about Christmas at Fota here where Patty Butler, Fota’s former maid recalls her Christmas memories.
You too can experience the magic of Christmas in the ‘Big House’! Why not book:
Merry Christmas from Fota House & Gardens & Strokestown Park, and from everyone at the Irish Heritage Trust.