Good tidings I bring: A season’s greeting from the Blennerhassett HotelDecember 13, 2016 10:00 am
Dear friends and guests,
All of us have stories from the past— old buildings like me included. I’ve been here in Parkersburg well over a century now celebrating the season, and I’m going to share my favorite Christmas memories with you.
What stories we’ve shared!
In my younger years, grand buildings like me really went to town with sconces, flames and parlor heaters. We Victorians even spoke the “language of flowers.” Those were sentimental times. I also remember when hotel staff used to decorate me with live greenery, fruit and ornate candles! Someone even hung mistletoe (!!) in the hallways, which sometimes made for giddy exuberance, or more often, a sweet moment.
We also had cozy stories like “A Christmas Carol.” Have you ever read it? It had already been in print for 40 years or so by the time I came along, but oh! Imagine a wintery tale full of ghosts, goodwill and forgiveness. Plus, it has a happy ending! Guests would bring stories like that in their suitcases and read them aloud to their children. I couldn’t help but listen, too! (My walls have ears— sorry.)
Speaking of Dickens: did you know that a few friendly ghosts roam my halls? (Don’t worry, I only let pleasant spirits stay within my walls.) Mr. William Chancellor, the Parkersburg entrepreneur who built me in 1889, appears from time to time to check in. He’s quite a charming fellow (unless you dislike the occasional whiff of his fine cigars). No matter how many times I tell him to smoke outdoors, he insists on puffing away in the library. I sometimes hear unscheduled parties in the ballroom, too. Folks sure feel at home!
Best of all, though, is the seasonal spirit of our merry guests. I may be dressed in cheerful regalia, but it’s you who fills each room and hall with happiness. I feel your profound joy, year after year. It’s both an honor and a delight.
The glories of Christmases long, long ago
Roast game, decorations, carols… you whippersnappers would recognize the Christmas feasts of my youth. Of course, a few things were slightly different. Guests back then were fond of drinking “smoking bishop,” a festive concoction enlivened with red wine, port, seasonal spices … and vigorous thrusts of a red-hot poker!
I also remember Christmas games that involved a bowl of burning brandy. Whoever retrieved the most currants from the flaming liquor won! Some especially daring— or tipsy— gents sipped ignited drinks, too. It was quite the show!
I still host Christmas dinners. Executive Chef Rick Argoso’s culinary masterpieces would impress Queen Victoria and Mr. Chancellor! He serves delicacies like Norwegian smoked salmon, roasted turkey and maple-glazed applewood smoked ham. I see the same families return every year for the joy of being together… and seconds of mashed potatoes!
New Years become old, and we renew again.
I always feel a little wistful when Christmas ends. Still, New Year’s Eve gives all of us an excuse to prolong that holiday joy.
Back in the 19th century (that would be the 90s for young bloods like you), Scottish traditions were all the rage. Queen Victoria had a passion for all things plaid and Sir Walter Scott, so folks followed her lead.
Not surprisingly, New Year’s parties during the 1890s could be pretty Scottish, too. One popular tradition was hogmanay, when partiers greeted each other with gifts at midnight. If a dark-haired man arrived first, that was a sign of a prosperous new year. Blondes, on the other hand, could give you bad luck.
Between then and now, things have changed for light-haired people. You and your blonde curls are welcome to my New Year’s Eve parties— I promise! We’ll even do laundry Jan. 1, even though I can almost hear my Victorian maids telling me that’s bad luck, too.
From the bottom of my basement, I wish every single one of you happy holidays and a fruitful New Year!
Do be sure to visit.
The Blennerhassett Hotel