Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. Celebrated the world over with presents, good cheer and even better food. A day of giving and love to all mankind, with the obligatory consumption of far too much alcohol. And it wouldn’t be complete without an evening spent in front of the TV watching Eastenders and The Royale Family.
But what if your TV broke? What if you didn’t have one at all?
Welcome to a ‘Very Victorian Christmas’…
Bringing the Outdoors Inside
The union of Victoria and Albert introduced some of the most recognisable aspects of Christmas. In 1848, a newspaper published an illustration of the royal family celebrating Christmas Day around a decorated Christmas tree. As we know, Albert was German and it was he who introduced the tradition of dressing a tree to Britain. Soon every home in Britain had a tree bedecked with candles, sweets, fruit, homemade decorations and small gifts.
Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their family, enjoying the Christmas festivities.
Have A ‘Cracking’ Christmas!
Inspired by a trip to Paris in 1848, Tom Smith, a British confectioner had a brainwave. His idea spouted a tradition we still celebrate today – the pulling of the Christmas cracker. After witnessing the French selling bon bons – sugared almonds wrapped in twists of paper – he decided to expand on the notion. He began by simply creating a package filled with sweets that snapped when pulled apart. Small gifts and paper hats replaced the sweets in the late Victorian period.
Tom Smith’s Christmas crackers.
Not So Secret Santa
The tradition of giving and receiving gifts had usually taken place at New Year, but moved as Christmas became more important during the Victorian era. Way back when, gifts were modest and simple. Families gave fruit, nuts, sweets and small handmade trinkets, and were more often than not hung on the Christmas tree. Nowadays, of course, we place our presents under the tree, as gifts have evolved into larger, more substantial items.
From me, to you…sans Royal Mail!
In 1843, Henry Cole commissioned an artist to design the very first Christmas card. The imagery portrayed a group of people around a dinner table, with a Christmas message. However, they were not immediately available to the whole of Victorian society – they were really expensive! As the tradition caught on children would design their own cards. As the age of industrialisation progressed, printing became cheaper as did the postage rates. By the 1880s, the sending of cards had become hugely popular; creating a lucrative industry that produced 11.5 million cards in 1880 alone.
The first Christmas card, 1843.
The Main Event – The Christmas Feast
Now, obviously the main event of Christmas Day is the traditional Roast Dinner. A time for the family to get together to enjoy a fine meal. The Christmas feast has been around for many centuries, but it was during the Victorian period that the dinner we now associate with Christmas began to take shape. Roast turkey stole the crown from beef and goose and became the traditional centrepiece of the Victorian feast!
We would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our contributors, visitors, family and friends a wonderful Christmas. May your day be filled with cheer, laughter and love!