Tara Ward explains how you can party like it’s 1919 this festive season, with help from the folks at Downton Abbey. //
Ah, Christmas, the silly season. This time of year is filled with the joyous sounds of tills ringing, children screaming, and trolleys clashing over the last pint of Lewis Road Creamery Chocolate Milk. If the tensions of modern day festivities make you want to cancel Christmas, take a moment; catch your breath and escape to the 1919 world of Downton Abbey. Filled to the heirloom crystal brim with refinement and sophistication, Downton will show you everything that a civilized Christmas should be (spoiler alert: you’ll need to dress for dinner). The Crawley clan will put the jingle back into your bells and the ho back into your ho-ho-holidays, so let’s bang the dinner gong! Polish the servants! Don your finest paper hat and grab the biggest, most kick-arse tree you can find: It’s Christmas at Downton Abbey!
It’s the thought that counts
Let Downton inspire you to find the perfect handpicked, unique gift this Christmas. Stuck with what to give your hard-to-buy-for manservant or fussy elderly relative? Follow Lord Grantham’s lead and give your valet the 1919 bestseller The Royal Families of Europe (it scored a respectable 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads). For the aged family matriarch who has everything but likes nothing, may we suggest a nutcracker? (We’ve all had one of those gifts, haven’t we? “Oh, this is nice…what is it?” asked the Dowager Countess.). If you’re really looking for something completely bewildering, Downton recommends a bolt of dress fabric. “The usual cloth for a frock, I’m afraid,” Lady Mary said to Anna, who must have wondered how such cultured people could have such little imagination.
Smack-down, Downton Stylz
What’s a Downton Christmas without a good fight? This year, forgo the usual petty squabbles over whose turn it was to bring the wine and avoid the annual set-to about who really broke Auntie Janice’s heirloom platter seven years ago. If you’re going to have a stoush – do it Matthew Crawley style. Ensure your conduct remains civilized at all times: after all, this isn’t Geordie Shore Christmas. Firstly, find yourself the nearest cad or rogue. Begin with a scandalous insult (“you bastard!” should kick things off nicely), surprise with a quick right fist, and finish with a swift tackle and a roll about on the settee. After being suitably admonished by the Lord of the Manor, all that’s left is for you to adjust your comb-over and assure your host you’ll leave on the first train tomorrow. Job done.
Let me entertain you
You won’t find the Earl of Grantham lolling around in a carbohydrate-induced stupor after Christmas dinner, laughing hysterically at YouTube’s finest funny cat videos. Downton’s Christmas entertainment is far more enlightened. Gather your dearest together in the parlour for some hilarious entertainment — did somebody say Charades? This amusing lark will please all the family; indeed, you’ll wonder why you don’t partake in such pleasures every evening! My sides hurt still hurt to remember Lady Mary flailing about, miming The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Hilarious! (That one was totes too easy, by the way). You may feel silly acting out Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but as the Dowager Countess said, “life is a game in which one must appear ridiculous”. So, crack on.
True love is hard to find
A Downton Christmas is filled with romance. Whether it was the snow, the firelight, or Lady Mary’s (totally understandable) excitement at winning a game of bridge, star-crossed lovers Mary and Matthew finally got it together at Christmas. While our festive season is more humid and sticky than cuddly and cold, you can still grab the mistletoe and pucker up for a Lindauer-fuelled pash with that special someone in your life. (Okay, they don’t have to be special, nor even a person: most Christmases I find myself whispering sweet nothings to a jumbo box of scorched almonds). Together, Matthew and Mary “carry more luggage than the porters at Kings Cross” (woah, Mary, that is totally deep), but their love overcame all: a World War, a dead fianceé, Mary sleeping with a Turkish diplomat who died post-coitus and Matthew still loving her even though she was spoiled goods. Now THAT’S the kind of love you don’t get from a box of scorched almonds.
Dance like nobody’s watching
When Mr Bates’ murder sentence is revoked from death by hanging to life imprisonment, Lord Grantham celebrates by holding the Christmas Servant’s Ball. Hooray, Bates will rot in prison forever; let’s cut some shapes! So when there’s a lull in your own Christmas proceedings, improve the mood by breaking out the gramophone and busting some moves. However, don’t even think about twerking or doing the running man. It’s all about the grace of fox trot, the spark of the quickstep and romance of the waltz, as you spin your Housekeeper around the dance floor pretending for one glorious moment that you are equals.
With such wonderful material, how can your Downton Christmas go wrong? However, if your enthusiastic efforts are unappreciated by family and friends, there’s always New Year’s Eve, where everyone at Downton —upstairs and down — sees the New Year in with copious amounts of sweet sherry. Now you’re talking! Bottoms up, and here’s to a happy and healthy 1920!