When Jennifer Mattingly Rareshide was growing up in Texas, she performed in the Nutcracker with the Beaumont Civic Ballet for many Christmas seasons. "Beginning in the fourth grade and until my senior year in high school, my entire month of December was swept up in the magic of this classic ballet," she explains. "With elaborate scenic design, splendid costumes, and Tchaikovsky's mesmerizing music, it was an extraordinary childhood experience." Dancing the roles of Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy at home and later performing in the Waltz of the Flowers in New York City with the Joffrey Ballet meant that Jennifer was on stage on many a Christmas day. Now, in the Garden District home she shares with her husband John, teenage daughters Caroline and Christina, and Luna, their King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, she brings that same beloved traditional joy to her own family holiday.
"I love creating a meaningful holiday that celebrates the beautiful religious aspects of the season as well as the more theatrical Santa Claus merriment," she says. In addition to the ballet's influence on her creativity, Jennifer notes that her mom is a huge inspiration. "My mother was born on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and was named Carole, thus Christmas is her favorite time of the year. She is extremely creative and would stay up all night transforming our home with imaginative decorations. Even now at age 80, 'Christmas Carole' still gathers our entire immediate family from near and far to photograph an annual themed Christmas card," Jennifer smiles. "She is amazing."
Every year, the Rareshides choose a beautiful freshly cut Frasier Fir tree from Holy Name of Jesus School and it lasts perfectly until Twelfth Night when the tree comes down. "The lights are very important to me," she explains. "It takes as long as three Lifetime Christmas shows for me to weave the white lights into and around the entire tree," she laughs. Her large collection of hand blown ornaments include nods to The Nutcracker including a glass Clara or two, handsome nutcracker princes, and less common characters from the ballet such as candy cane dancers and Polichinelles. She has lots of different garlands and several tree toppers, so each year she changes the look up by mixing the elements together in different ways.
As far as gift wrapping goes, she loves it and has her process down pat. She sets up a utility table with rolls of wrapping paper and boxes of unique gift tags, decorative baubles, and pretty ribbon purchased from favorite local shops all year long. Armed with lots of tape, several pairs of scissors, and her handy glue gun, she starts her creative process. "This year, I started wrapping in October to reduce the stress of the countdown to Christmas and to be able to enjoy viewing the packages under the tree for a longer period of time," she explains. "We're at home more this year, so it makes sense to relax and start earlier. But I've also been known to throw an unwrapped Amazon Prime package behind the wrapped gifts on Christmas Eve as it arrived upon our departure for 4 p.m. mass at Holy Name."
We've all been there.
Instead of their yearly open-house for neighbors, family, and friends , this year the Rareshides are planning several festive and smaller soirees. "I'm trying to get creative about entertaining this year," Jennifer says. "We're thinking low-key, but still very special." They have a lovely tall table, which is actually made from a champagne riddling rack, that they'll gather around for casual wine tastings and several dinner parties are on the calendar. Their enclosed porch makes for the most intimate and charming dining room that overlooks the front courtyard. "I decorate the windows differently each year. This year, I found these simple white paper lighted stars at World Market and we love the glow especially at night."
Both Jennifer and John enjoy collecting china, glassware, and silver and setting the table in many different ways. For this party, they layered the table with Lynn Chase 'Chelsea Winter Bird' chargers and salad plates and Herend 'Golden Edge' dinner plates. I love how the pale blue Varga crystal flutes, which were wedding gifts, pick up the soft accents from the china and all of the touches of red and gold — berries, candle rings, glittery tapers, and a French table runner — tie everything together. Sterling silver pieces — a caviar server and large tray from Jennifer's mom, wine bottle coasters John purchased at Neal Auction Company, and Sheffield candlesticks were a wedding gift — are all about elegance and tradition. "Due to the pandemic, we won't be attending the ballet this year," Jennifer explains. "But we have so much to be grateful for and we will enjoy the holidays at home all the more this season."
This article appeared in the Holiday 2020 Issue of Adore Magazine.