Getting ready for Christmas at Standen

The drawing room at Standen decorated for Christmas

See the 1930s come to life at Standen this year. House Manager, Ruth Howard explains how staff, volunteers and visitors will help bring the Beale family's traditions to the house this Christmas.

What can visitors look forward to this year at Standen?

Standen epitomises everything you imagine about a traditional family Christmas: a cosy feel, warm rooms, the family gathering all together, presents, dancing, Christmas trees and family fun. We are recreating these ideals through our ‘Beale Family Christmas’ this year as Standen is a family house and everything that you could wish for as the setting for a festive gathering. It’s very exciting to be creating something new for visitors to enjoy. We will be imagining all the Beale family coming together to celebrate Christmas, and will be using our archive to tell the story of how the family used the house, what sort of celebrations they had, the parties that occurred, the people who came and the activities they enjoyed. 

When do you begin to plan for Christmas at Standen?

We have been thinking about Christmas since last Christmas, really. There have been many meetings along the way, including brainstorming sessions when we invited all our volunteers to hear their thoughts, as they always contribute valuable and interesting ideas. Christmas planning really begins in earnest at the end of August though, and then it will be all go from September onwards with the preparations.

A Beale Family Christmas Sat 20 Nov 2021– Sun 2 Jan 2022

Mantelpiece decorated for Christmas
Gold candlesticks, white flowers and greenery decorate the mantelpiece at Standen
Mantelpiece decorated for Christmas

What room are you most looking forward to decorating?

The Beale family had a lot of fun at Christmas, when the extended family got together and played music and danced. It really was a jolly social time for them and I am really looking forward to getting that feeling across to our visitors and telling the stories of their Christmas parties. Luckily, we have quite a lot of archival information, mostly from letters from Helen Beale, and present lists from Margaret Beale, the mother of the Beale family. Together with our volunteers we will take inspiration from these stories to create a special atmosphere for our visitors.

I am really looking forward to dressing the Dining room, it is such a beautiful room and fun to decorate to make it look as though the family are just about to sit down to dinner.

Which Beale Christmas traditions are special to Standen?

In our collections we have the original Father Christmas suit that was worn by James Beale. It shows how the Beales dressed up for the children and got into the Christmas spirit.  After lunch the family would gather in the lower staircase hall and listen very hard for the rattle of the fire-irons in the drawing room. When they heard them the children would rush into the drawing room where Father Christmas would be standing with a large sack of toys beside the fireplace. They looked at what they had been given and then admired what everyone else had been given, but when they looked up to thank Father Christmas he had gone. Coincidentally, about 10 minutes later Grandfather would walk into the room and the children would tell him that he had missed Father Christmas again.

James Beale used to wear this Father Christmas suit each year
A vintage father christmas suit laid out on a bed at Standen House and Garden
James Beale used to wear this Father Christmas suit each year
" One Christmas afternoon we children were all herded into the hall and distinctly heard the rattle of the drawing room fire irons, proving that Father Christmas really had come down the chimney. We rushed in and there he was, just as we had expected, standing by the big Christmas tree and gruffly presenting each one with splendid presents."
- Phyllis (Amy’s youngest child) remembering Christmas at Standen