by Paullette Gaudet
If December has come to mean just staying home (or travelling to someone else's home) for the holidays, consider switching things from ho-hum to full-on Winter Wonderland with a visit to Yosemite National Park when it's covered with snow, not tourists. Family summer road trips have become such a collective rite of passage that it's easy to forget our national parks are indeed open year-round: Yosemite's winter activities include skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing and snow shoeing, as well as the more unexpected delight of ice skating at Half-Dome Village's outdoor rink (you can rent skates and store your shoes in a warming hut while you're on the ice)!
But the real reason to give this national park a Yuletide try occurs indoors: The Bracebridge Dinner At Yosemite. Inspired by Washington Irving's sketchbook, "A Christmas at Bracebridge Hall," this Christmas pageant extraordinaire was created in 1927 and is still performed each year in the grand Dining Room of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Over the years the pageant has been shaped by a committed cast of core members, at one time including photographer and part-time Valley resident Ansel Adams (whose script for the Bracebridge Dinner remains largely the same since its debut in 1929), and continues to evolve with the addition of choral music, new characters and costumes. There is also the food: the bounty of a seven-course 18th century feast, replete with modern stand-ins for the likes of Peacock Pie, Baron of Beef, and Plum Pudding and Wassail. And, wine stewards abound for help with the dinner's wine selections.
Perhaps even at home, this December will offer the chance to experience traditions in a non-traditional setting—hopefully paired with a great glass of wine!