How one of Britain’s finest stately homes does Christmas – and the style tips to steal

As the light begins to fade on a chilly December afternoon, hundreds of candles are twinkling into life at Holkham Hall. The 18th-century Palladian-style house, the seat of the Earls of Leicester, is a hive of activity as various members of the estate staff are busy sprucing up garlands, hanging last-minute baubles and checking fairy lights, in preparation for the first group of visitors to embark on a candlelit tour of the spectacular Christmas decorations that adorn a selection of the hall’s staterooms, corridors and below-stairs rooms.

The tradition of the Christmas trail at Holkham dates back to 2011, when it was a more low-key affair. “It took about four or five years to get it right,” says the Countess of Leicester, who, with Christmas connoisseur Catherine Zoll, is heavily involved in putting the display together each year – an increasingly mammoth task. “In the beginning, we decorated the staterooms and we had actors playing the parts of butlers, cooks, leprechauns, Queen Victoria, all sorts,” says Catherine.

“We simply opened the doors on a set number of days to have people come into the hall.”

“The problem was that if it started raining, everyone would suddenly pile in,” recalled Lady Leicester.

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