With a theme of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, you might expect Castle Howard’s 2018 festive opening to be shorter than usual, but this year will see the historic house open for longer than ever, right up to New Year’s Eve, to enjoy the stunning displays created by theatrical designers, Charlotte Lloyd-Weber and Bretta Gerecke.

This year’s displays are more ambitious than ever before, turning the whole house into a celebration of Christmas themed around not only the famous song, but also about the traditions linked to the 12 days of Christmas – a feast that runs from Christmas Day until Epiphany, on 6 January. Visitors can expect to see swans-a-swimming across a mirrored dining table, as well as the obligatory partridge in a pear tree, but also elements linked to the culmination of the feasting season – the Twelfth Night part – over which a Lord of Misrule would preside with a carnivalesque and mischievous atmosphere.

“All of the public rooms in the house have been dressed, with different colour-schemes and decorations as you move through the song, culminating in the Long Gallery, which brings together all of the elements of the Twelve Days of Christmas in a breath-taking scene with evocative lighting and stunning details suspended overhead,” comments head of marketing, Abbigail Ollive. “Charlotte and Bretta have created a stunning scheme where you are drawn from room to room, and visitors young and old will love, with the familiar elements of the song woven into the colourful and sparkly displays.”

In keeping with the ‘feasting’ theme, the rooms of the High South have been transformed into a Victorian kitchen and dining room, with table set for an opulent feast – and a chance to see behind the scenes at what the team of servants would have done to make sure every last detail was perfect.

New for 2018 will be the incorporation of augmented reality characters and games in various locations around the house and grounds. On arrival, visitors can download a free app which enables them to interact with the environment with a smartphone or tablet. The app, created by York-based New Moon Studios, reveals Santa flying over Castle Howard’s rooftop, gives young visitors the chance to decorate a virtual Christmas tree, and even indulge in a little elf boxing, which can be filmed or photographed to share with family and friends!

Visitors looking for a quieter way to enjoy the festivities can enjoy a special Christmas Afternoon Tea, served in the splendour of the Grecian Hall. The experience can be booked on the day – a delightful way to round off a visit, or a stop-off for sustenance as visitors work their way around the house and grounds.

Christmas preparations are not contained to the House, as different teams around the estate gear up for one of the busiest times of year; the butchers are now taking orders to ensure that locals can enjoy the finest meat and poultry on their Christmas tables; catering staff are ready to welcome thousands of requests for Christmas dinner from visiting groups and coach parties; the retail team have stocked up with basket after basket of Christmas baubles destined for trees around the world, and unusual gift ideas for discerning Christmas shoppers.

The Twelve Days of Christmas at Castle Howard runs to Monday 31 December (closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day). The house and grounds open at 10am with last entry at 3pm during the week and 4pm on weekends. Admission prices for tickets booked in advance are £15.60 for adults, £14.80 for concessions and £8.80 for children. A family ticket is £41.60 (two adults and up to three children) or £24.80 (one adult and up to three children). Tickets can be bought on the day priced at £19.50, £18.50 and £11.00 respectively. The farm shop is open on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

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