Heraldic horns sound throughout Yosemite National Park's elegant Ahwahnee Hotel (formerly known as The Majestic Yosemite Hotel), calling guests to enter Bracebridge Hall every December. Travel back in time to a Christmas of centuries past, where glorious music and sumptuous food are but part of this remarkable holiday tradition. Inspired by the writings of American author Washington Irving, the holiday event transforms the historic hotel into a 17th century English Manor adorned with large wreaths, elaborate set designs, and traditional Yuletide decorations. The performance, which was traditionally performed only once on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, is offered on multiple dates throughout December.
More than 100 actors––including many who have been participating in the performance for over 20 years––come together to recreate the roles of the Squire, his family, their servants, and many other lively characters. The Ahwahnee’s grand dining room serves as the Great Hall and stage for the play. Lord Neville of Bracebridge kicks off the festivities with proclamations of “food and riches without measure,” and invitations to “let our conviviality abound!” It’s not hard to get in the spirit when you’re surrounded by talented singers and performers in luxurious 17th-century costumes.
The Bracebridge Dinner and musical performances that accompany it are as old as the hotel itself, which opened in 1927. Though the play’s content has changed little since then, the culinary delights have only grown more impressive. A multi-course, five-star Yuletide feast is served in the spectacular stone-and-timber lodge set in snowy Yosemite. Guests may find unusually named dishes like the baron of beef and peacock pie (made with rabbit) on the menu. Cathedral windows look out to the snowcapped mountains and frosted trees. Can’t get more magical than that, now can it?