Whether it’s the changing winter light or the school Christmas fayre, the smell of mulled wine spices or a freshly cut tree, this time of year is rich with sensory experiences that tap into memory and emotion as we collectively mine our wells of nostalgia and (hopefully) come together to celebrate the season.
For some, Christmas starts at the switching-on of the lights in the high streets. For others, it’s the first airing of a (guilty) favourite Christmas song or cracking open the advent calendar. For our team at The Nest, this time of year also brings out the natural host in each of them. So in the spirit of generosity and hospitality, here are a few insights into why we’re all raising a toast to a vintage Christmas.
“It’s when I notice the light in the vineyards – that glowing orangey-pink mid-afternoon sunset with the silhouetted oaks in the distance.” For Nest manager Dan Grainger, the start of the season is signalled in the sky over our Kent winery. That glow is perhaps why he celebrated his December 2020 engagement with a magnum of Gusbourne Rosé 2016. “Nothing will beat her saying ‘yes’ as my most significant Christmas memory. We’ll never stop toasting that moment.”
There’s a reason why traditions stick around for generations. When objects, smells, tastes and sounds are associated with happy times, memories are triggered as we see, smell, taste or hear the same things year after year. It’s why some people simply can’t imagine Christmas without mulled wine and mince pies, and why others re-create events from their childhood when they become parents themselves.
“I find comfort and joy in the traditions of my childhood Christmases with my parents – these have really stuck with me,” says Matt Hope, Events and Experiences Manager at The Nest. These days Matt loves playing host and cooking for family and friends: “I love a traditional Christmas dinner of roast turkey with all the trimmings, followed by some lightly competitive board games!” Christmas music of all stripes features high on Matt’s traditional to-do list, but if pressed for a personal favourite it’s got to be the contemporary classic ‘Christmas Time’ by The Darkness.
Going with the flow
“We have a family birthday on the 25th,” says Dan, “so we let that lead the flow of the day.” Dan’s is a vegetarian household, so traditional roast dinners don’t apply. Instead, the main event is risotto “with lots of cheese!” Cheese is also the secret ingredient to Dan’s Boxing Day leftovers: “If there’s enough cheese, you can make anything go together.”
This go-with-the-flow attitude is something The Nest’s Sue East can relate to.
“Hosting every time,” is Sue’s preference over being a guest. ”I like to do things my way and serve dinner when it’s ready, not at some pre-arranged time.” One tradition that must be adhered to though is a visit to Sue’s local church on Christmas Eve for the Christingle service. “Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without it.” Sue also recalls going to her grandparents’ house for Christmas dinner and being warned by her parents not to touch the sherry trifle – and she never has. Fair enough.
Including family pets in Christmas traditions is a tradition in itself. They’re there warming our ankles on cold mornings, searching our faces for signs of an incoming treat and an excellent excuse to get off the sofa and into the bracing air after a filling Christmas dinner. At Remy Barratt’s Christmas Day table, you’d find “my closest family, including my two dogs”. Remy, who is Tour Leader at The Nest, confesses that, along with mulled wine, mince pies and a spiced-apple scented candle, “cold dog walks” are a marker of the season for her.
Finding a dog chew in a Christmas cracker goes down as a quirky Christmas memory for Sue. “The children secretly swapped the crackers and I ended up with the one meant for Izzy, our scruffy cockapoo. Izzy, meanwhile, received a rose-scented soap, which didn’t please her at all!”
Table talk and togetherness
As our hosts at Gusbourne, the team at The Nest are all naturals at welcoming guests and keeping the conversation flowing. At home at Christmastime, hosting is about ”generosity, conscientiousness, a handle on timings… and plenty of Gusbourne while waiting for the lunch to cook,” say Dan and Matt. On the table? “There’ll definitely be a homemade centrepiece and my Sophie Allport Festive Forest table linen and crackers,” says Sue, “and I’ll have dug out the wedding-gift glassware and special-occasion crockery and cutlery.”
And to drink? “I’d give a bottle of Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs as a gift, and save a Blanc de Noirs for our table,” says Dan. Sue and Remy also have an eye on Gusbourne Blanc de Noirs 2018, because, says Remy, “of its richness and generosity of fruit.” A perfect match for the roast turkey, beef or goose – and let’s not forget the risotto – as Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby (or Justin Bieber for Remy) croon some festive tunes in the background, transporting us to happy times past and present.
Dan sums up what he – and all of us – are most looking forward to: “Spending time together after a tough year – food, fun and happiness.”
Book or gift a tour with our team at The Nest to experience some true Gusbourne hospitality.
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