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Traditions

December 11, 2022

Gilded Age Holiday Celebrations Around the US

Take a trip back to the 19th century!

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With HBO’s dazzling historical drama series, The Gilded Age, trending hard last spring, it’s no surprise that this sumptuous period that was birthed during the late Victorian era across the pond is now bubbling up in holiday inspiration all over social media. Let’s start with a little history… The Gilded Age refers to the economic boom in the late 19th century, when the American Industrial Revolution was underway and America saw unprecedented growth in many different aspects. The nation was becoming wealthier, and the upper class Americans in particular, were showing it off during this time (“gilded” literally means to cover with gold). 

What does this have to do with our treasured, as we know it now, Christmas celebrations? During this storied time, many traditions began to change and none of this was more evident than in Christmas celebrations. Elaborate soirees began to replace the traditional folk celebrations of immigrants and holiday celebrations and decorations took off in a whole new, more elaborate, direction, which often extended well beyond Christmastime into Lent.  

We’ve come a long way since the Gilded Age, but your holiday celebrations can still be as glamorous as they were back then, or at least parts of your celebrations can be reminiscent of the OTT level of legendary decadence from the era!  For inspiration, see how the most iconic Gilded Age mansions embrace the holiday spirit!!

Newport, Rhode Island

Believe it or not, the mansions in Newport were not just for summer fun. The ritzy people of the Gilded Age also celebrated their winter holidays at coastal towns. Newport, Rhode Island, was one of the most famous. The Rockefeller, Astor,  and Vanderbilt families along with many other affluent folks from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, gathered in mass and enjoyed attending the glamorous balls, teas and dinners of the season. Imagine the opulence at The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms!  The mansions of Newport, decorated at Christmas, will give you a sure taste of a Gilded Age Christmas!

Asheville, North Carolina

If you are looking for a bit more history, specific to the Gilded Age, to pull into your holiday celebrations, consider also visiting Asheville, North Carolina. It is home to  Biltmore Estate, built by a young George Vanderbilt (Anderson Cooper’s great-great uncle!) It is still the largest privately owned home in America.  Biltmore is always abundantly  decorated with thousands of  lights and full blown Christmas sparkle to give you the feel of the late 1800’s, even in the present day. Plus they have a giant gift shop to bring some of that Gilded Age glamor back home. 

Tarrytown, New York

Lyndhurst, one of America’s finest Gothic Revival mansions, located on the historic Hudson River. Designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis, the mansion’s gorgeous gothic architecture is complemented by its dazzling collection of original decorative arts and the estate’s park-like landscape. Described as one of the “Ten Best Historic Holiday Tours” by USA Today, the mansion transformed into a glittering wonderland of holiday splendor each season. Be sure to buy your tickets in advance!

If you are inspired to create a Gilded Age look in your own home this year check out our Gilded Christmas ideas or these great options:

Balsam Hill x Biltmore

The leading purveyor of artisanartificial Christmas trees, Balsam Hill has partnered with Biltmore Estate on a wide range of ornaments, stockings, garlands, and of course, trees! 

Neiman Marcus Christmas Santas and Nutcrackers

If you want decadence, look no further than Neimans. Well known for their lavish Christmas decorations, we love their wide variety of Santas and nutcrackers that can certainly bring that Gilded Age glamor to your home. 

Frontgate Gilded Ornament Collection

Starting from scratch on your elegant Christmas look? Frontgate has a gorgeous 54-piece ornament collection that will get your tree glittering in no time. Classic silver, pewter and gold glass ornaments will bring an old world charm to a tree, garland, wreath or tablescape. Each piece is hand painted and features a ribbon for easy hanging.