|Christmas just wouldn't be the same|
without pots of paperwhites about the house
There are a number of Christmas traditions that we observe at Darlington that I brought with me from my birth family, and there are ones of a more recent vintage that we have made our own.
|FD, Camilla, and MD|
As I have written before, one tradition that I observe at Christmas is to adorn the grill of our Rover with a wreath. My mother, MD, decorated her cars with a wreath when I was a boy. I loved it then, and I love it still. This year we ordered our Rover's wreath from the good ladies of Cedar Farm. I think they did a lovely job of it (they also made the wreath shown in the background, hanging on a door of one of our barns).
|This year's Rover Wreath|
Another Christmas tradition I observe is to set out a crèche. MD was mad for crèches, and collected more than a dozen of them over the years. The one we have at Darlington is a dime store crèche made in Italy in the 1950s that I bought at a Groupe Shoppe years ago. I've been adding figures to it ever since. If you look closely at the photograph you'll see that there is a little pug, given to me by my sister Camilla, among the adoring throng.
|Our not entirely tasteful Christmas crèche|
I also have a collection of Black Forest bears that I put out at Christmas. I inherited the nucleus of the collection from my mother, who inherited it from her father. I've added to it over the years, and I put the bears on the mantel in our Snuggery, along with half a dozen or so little Steiff toy animals that I played with as a child. I've had some of them for almost fifty years.
|The mantel in our Snuggery, decorated for Christmas|
When it comes to food and drink we have a number of traditions at Darlington. I always make sure to have a box of Darling clementines on hand at Christmas.
Every Christmas Eve, before attending the evening festival service at the Episcopal church in the nearby town (assuming I can stay awake—and sober enough—to attend it), I make a simple oyster stew, a dish that my sister Hermione introduced me to as a Christmas Eve tradition many years ago.
|I think I may try Alex Hitz's recipe for|
oyster stew this year
Image courtesy of House Beautiful
On Christmas day we tuck into an old-fashioned English dinner of prime rib roast and Yorkshire pudding (recipes courtesy of my dear friend Lindaraxa), followed by Stilton cheese and Christmas pudding with hard sauce. MD adored hard sauce.
|Lindaraxa's English roast beef and Yorkshire pudding|
Image courtesy of same
In years past, when Fauchon still had an outpost in Manhattan, we used to put in a store of their sublime pâtes de fruit and marron glacé to eat over the Christmas break. Now we console ourselves with chocolates and other treats, including blinis heaped with caviar or salmon roe and crème fraîche. Champagne is usually within easy reach.
|A Darlington tradition of Christmases past|
Image courtesy of Fauchon
Another tradition of ours during the Christmas break is to drive to Albany, New York State's capitol, and have a festive lunch at the city's venerable Jack's Oyster House. It's been an Albany institution for one hundred years now. Jack's is usually packed this time of year with tables of happy revelers out for a holiday lunch. We heading there for ours today, in fact.
|Jack's Oyster House's card|
A more recent Christmas tradition that we've added to our repertoire at Darlington is dipping into the most delicious egg nog imaginable, made by our friend Ted Greenwood. Ted makes a large batch of it from an old family recipe every year and distributes it on Christmas Eve to his lucky friends in Ball jars. He calls it Ted Nog. It is beyond yummy, particularly when adorned with a bourbon or rum floater on top. Needless to say, Ted is very popular with his fortunate friends this time of year!
|Our friend Ted "Nog" Greenwood at a|
Darlington dinner party several years ago
Another tradition I look forward to every Christmas is listening to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols sung by the choir of King's College Cambridge, and broadcast on our local public radio station on Christmas Eve.
|The choir of King's College Cambridge|
Image courtesy of Zimbio
Of course we hang garlands and wreaths and put up a tree at Darlington, and we decorate the house festively for Christmas. But, then, that's the subject of another post, soon to follow. . .
|I found these little German wooden candles in|
a hospital thrift store ten years ago.
I've put them out at Christmastime ever since
Tell me, Dear Reader, what are some of your Christmas traditions?
All photographs, unless noted, by Boy Fenwick or Reggie Darling