Memories are what define Christmas. It’s what makes us strive to make each year bigger and better. As the main event approaches, and last minute panic-buying of stocking fillers reaches peak intensity, the best experiences are the ones where you surround yourself with friends and family. You need days out that glitter with festive cheer, that take your mind off everything else you have to do to satisfy the season; events that release you from stress rather than add to it. Apparently I’m not the only one who believes this, as Standen, an arts and crafts home intricately designed by William Morris, was heaving with families as I dropped in for a Christmas tour yesterday.
I have to hold my hands up here and admit that I am a National Trust nerd; as a member, I almost feel like I have a small investment in each of the properties I visit… well, it’s certainly an idealistic vision to imagine, and probably the closest I will ever come to owning a castle. Standen is my local property, and I have visited it enough times that you would think there was nothing more to be gained. But as someone who has always been fanatical about English history, and whose holidays in the UK meant halfway stops at different properties across the country, I always enjoy a visit for the comforting mix of soothing nostalgia and whimsical educational value.
However, it’s one thing to enjoy the property on a normal day, but Standen is truly transformed into a Yuletide treat in December. It’s impossible to miss the courtyard Christmas tree as you arrive, which has a striking New Age design; rather than the usual dashes of red and green, the predominant colours are pink and orange, and really give the conventional paper chains and baubles a vivid contemporary twist. Given the property’s association with a prominent textile designer, it’s refreshing to see this emphasis on innovation in art, especially during a period which is so rigidly framed in our minds.
Having said that, enjoying the splendor of an enormous tree emblazoned with traditional decorations was second to none, as was learning about Christmas throughout the ages in each room. Unfortunately we had come on the wrong day for Father Christmas, who would be dressed up in his traditional green suit, but I feel that I may be a bit out of place in the grotto at the age of 22. I know many bitter fogeys complain “Christmas is for the kids”, and it’s certainly true that there are certain aspects of the festive period that you can only really get away with as a youngster. However, the flip side is that there are other parts that are exclusive to an adult, and I would never go as far as saying it isn’t as magical for grown-ups.
Despite the weather feeling much too mild for winter, visiting Standen was just what I needed. Yes, I’m aware this post has been rather self-indulgent, but I suppose that’s just one side of Christmas. Of course it is a time for giving and selfless goodwill, but it is also for surrounding yourself with the things you love, and not just friends and family. Already I find myself looking back on this visit as one of my favourite from the 2015 season; it doesn’t have to be limited just to the big day itself after all. Get out there and do something worth reminiscing about in the next festive season, if only to inspire you to top that in 2016.