The elegant Bracebridge Dinner and pageant held at the
Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park is one of the most
intriguing and festive Christmas events in the United States.
This Yosemite tradition began in 1927 when the first Christmas
dinner menu noted: “In the earlier days, a branch was saved from
one year’s Yule Log to kindle the next to flame….We hope the
(spirit of) the first Christmas fire burning upon the hearth at the
Ahwahnee will find here an abiding place of Yuletide cheer that may
be kept aglow in your hearts.”
Ever since, with the exception of floods, World War II (and
the brief closing of the park last Christmas), the Bracebridge
Dinner has kept its magical spirit of Christmas.
The dinner itself is adapted from Washington Irving’s “Sketch
Book” of a Christmas Day in 1718 at Squire Bracebridge’s manor in
Yorkshire, England. The squire would invite family and friends for
old-fashioned feasting, singing, dancing and old English games.
At the Ahwahnee, the entire dining room serves as the dining
hall at Squire Bracebridge’s manor. It is decorated with wreaths
framing rondels depicting Yuletide traditions, an elaborate buffet
behind the squire’s table and banners suspended from the massive
Chimes and heraldic trumpets announce the arrival of Squire
Bracebridge and his family at the Great Hall, and his Guests rise
to pay him honor. Then, accompanied by songs of the Bracebridge
Singers, the squire and his family enter the hall and proceed to
their table in the circular alcove that dominates the west end of
the dining room.
At the squire’s high table, the house servants present each
dish to him so that he may give his approval before it is offered
to his guests. Four presentations are made, each borne high on
elaborate platters. The Bracebridge Singers (several of whom
perform in top operatic companies) add their voices to the
processions which include the fish, the peacock pie,
the boar’s head, and baron of beef.
The Lord of Misrule (a jester/juggler) entertains the diners,
and solos by minstrels and the housekeeper add to the merriment.
A band of starving villagers (all played by Yosemite National Park
residents) arrive, and are warmly received by Squire Bracebridge
who invites them to partake of the feast.
This is the time to dress formally. Men generally wear tuxedos
(or dark suits) and ladies wear evening attire.
For more information: www.yosemitepark.com
OTHER CHRISTMAS ACTIVITIES AT YOSEMITE
During the day, Bracebridge diners have plenty of activities.
Pops concerts, children’s films, social hours, and holiday
decorations and Christmas caroling add to the festivities.I
In addition, there’s ice skating on the outdoor rink at Curry
Village, downhill skiing on the slopes of Badger Pass,
snowboarding, cross-country skiing through meadows and forests, or
snowshoeing with a ranger through the giant sequoias.