Donna Arold of Flemington’s Main Street
Manor reflects on hosting the holidays
In my family, as in so many others, holidays are centered around many of the traditions my grandparents grew up with. On Christmas Eve, my family gathered in their country home to participate in the annual rituals that we all expected and loved. My grandparents’ home acted as a B&B of sorts, in which they hosted family from out of town and, of high importance to the grandkids, served a pancake breakfast on Christmas morning.
Our family has since grown and separated, all continuing the traditions in their own respective homes and tailoring them to their own tastes. In my childhood home, where I still celebrate with my parents most years, a tradition that remains is the pancake breakfast. On Christmas morning, nourishment comes first as we all sit down to pancakes dotted and topped with blueberries preserved from the summer, accompanied by meats, savory onion quiche, frittata and homemade sweets such as stollen, sweet breads and, of course, coffee with cream. As a child, wiggling in my seat and anxiously waiting for all the adults to finish their meals and move into the living room so we could open gifts, I didn’t appreciate this seemingly inconvenient detail of sharing an early morning meal together. Now, as a mother, I cherish this tradition. I see the ritual of hosting, cooking and serving others as an act of love and value the company and nourishment as the best and most important gifts shared that day.
In Flemington, at the Main Street Manor Bed & Breakfast Inn, innkeepers Donna and Ken Arold have been sharing their own holiday traditions with guests for nearly 10 years. For out-of-towners (and even locals) seeking a country experience, this beautiful Victorian home lends itself to gatherings and serves as a great location to experience the area’s many holiday festivities. During the holiday season, the inn has served as a beacon of light—literally, when decorated and lit by vintage bulb lights, but also figuratively, as a place of warmth and merriment. I visited recently with Donna Arold to ask the innkeeper about creating a memorable holiday experience for friends and strangers alike.
“I make a cranberry conserve with raspberry
vinegar and a lot of cloves and spice.
To me it tastes just like Christmas.”
What are the things you do to set the holiday mood for Christmas?
We close for a whole week after Thanksgiving to decorate the house. We decorate so much, it looks like Santa himself exploded. We have angels, elves, snowmen, Santa Claus, bulb lights, dishes, serving pieces, and fresh greens and garlands. All our decorations are vintage, either inherited or found at a yard sale or antique store. The love is in the detail. This kind of decorating is really timeless. I think it appeals to everyone.
What are the special recipes you bring out?
For breakfast we’ll serve holiday French toast with cranberries, sweet potato pancakes, or kale frittata, and turkey sausage with sage to keep with what is in season. I make a cranberry conserve with raspberry vinegar and a lot of cloves and spice. To me it tastes just like Christmas. We warm it and pour it over cold vanilla yogurt. Our chocolate mint brownie is reminiscent of a candy cane in a chocolaty kind of way, and is a nice addition to a traditional cookie tray. My walnut crescent cookie is adapted from a recipe in Women’s Day in 1963 that my mother and aunt made every year.
How do you incorporate local ingredients around the holidays?
During the height of the season we use whatever was picked that week. In the winter it’s more of a challenge, but the meats, eggs and honey are always available. I freeze my herbs and rely a lot on cheeses and root vegetables such as yams and potatoes. With my fruits, I’ll freeze them on a cookie sheet and throw them in a bag and keep them until I need them in the winter. I always make peach jam, tomato sauce, roasted tomato and salsa. It’s nice to put out a spread at Christmastime and tell our guests that this is something we made with tomatoes from this past summer.
Do you have any favorite holiday festivities in the area that you recommend to guests?
We love local house tours, and have offered a Christmas tour in this house since year one. We always recommend A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre [in Princeton] to all of our guests; it is the quintessential Christmas show. Mercer Museum and Fonthill Museum [both in Doylestown, Pennsylvania] host wonderful Christmas displays of Victorian and Old World holiday collections. Peddler’s Village [in Lahaska, Pennsylvania] hosts Illumination Night and a gingerbread decorating contest that are quite lovely. For a country experience we suggest visiting our favorite Christmas tree farm, Cherryville Farms, right here in Flemington, to cut your own tree.
What are some special holiday memories at the Main Street Manor?
For the past eight years we have the same group of friends who come and book the inn to spend the weekend together. They are five couples that have been traveling together for the last 25 years. Someone dresses as Santa Claus, they exchange presents and take photos in front of the tree every year. It’s a special tradition that we feel lucky to host.
What does this special season mean to you as an innkeeper?
Christmas is a busy time and it’s easy to get caught up in it if we don’t remember to hold on to the important things and the people that bring us joy. We are grateful for our guests who choose to stay here, which is a gift in itself, and for all the stories and kindness they share with us.
Main Street Manor Bed & Breakfast Inn
194 Main St., Flemington