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Rollerskates and giant crackers, childhood Christmas memories

LadyEmily_ShardportraitWhat was the atmosphere like in Harewood House when you were growing up in the run-up to Christmas? This is just one of the questions we asked Lady Emily Shard, daughter of the current Earl, David Lascelles.

We spent a lot of Christmas here when myself and my brothers was younger in the 70’s and 80’s.

We tended to spend much of the daytime in the Library. There would be a roaring fire (often with wet dogs drying out in front from a morning walk) and hundreds and hundreds of Christmas cards tucked between the books. I was always amazed that my grandparents could know so many people.

There would be a large and rambling family walk round the lake at some point. Although, having three children myself now, I am now sure getting everyone into coats and wellies and out the door took almost as long as the walk!

In the evenings we would tend to be upstairs in the private apartments – myself and my brothers shared the old nursery so we would play there, while the grown-ups got dressed up for dinner in the private dining room.

Do you have any particularly special memories of Christmas at Harewood?

Giant crackers and table decorations!

Our main Christmas dinner was held in the evening in the private dining room – the table was always laid in full glory with all the silver and glassware, with a Christmassy table centre to keep us children entertained. And after we had eaten, we would pull a giant cracker full of little gifts and party hats. In my memory it was around 10-foot-long and took everyone to pull it…looking back at old photos they were actually probably closer to 4-foot-long but the memories are magic.

Another powerful memory was the year myself and my brothers got rollerskates for Christmas! It was before the Terrace Galley existed and that space was open and flat and crucially since the weather was bad, undercover…we spent hours skating round down there, spinning round the columns and trying to avoid plummeting down the steps and into the doors to the parterre.

Was there and is there a lot of hustle and bustle at Harewood in anticipation of Christmas?

In my childhood it was mostly family members for Christmas itself, and the New Year gathering my grandparents threw always had lots of friends as well, so tons of people staying and lots of hustle and bustle. However, at that time the house was not open to the public during the winter, so many parts of the state floor were pretty shut down – festive celebrations tended to happen in the Library and private apartment. I am not clear how much of that was a self imposed ban for the children but I do not remember spending time on the rest of the State Floor, and certainly the less occupied bits of the house had a tendency to be jolly chilly!

Nowadays I think there is fantastic festive cheer all over the house at Christmas. We have so many committed staff and volunteers here and in the run up to the Christmas opening the whole place is a-buzz with preparations. As an educational charitable trust we have worked to open many more areas of the house that were little used when I was a child – this enables Harewood to welcome more people and gives us the opportunity to show even more of Harewood’s amazing past, present and future.

You can visit Harewood every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day until Sunday 5 January. Find out more about the Christmas House here.