Nineteenth-Century Christmas

Victorian Christmas saw the development of the modern, contemporary Christmas as we celebrate it today. Before the nineteenth century, Christmas was rarely celebrated if at all, irrespective of the strict upholding of religion in society. Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert largely encouraged this growth and expansion of the holiday, as his German heritage brought the popular tradition of the Christmas tree over to Britain in 1848; the publication of articles and drawings of Christmas trees led it to become a quick addition to the celebration of the holiday, as Victorian society admired and respected the royals, and wished to imitate their traditions. The Victorians developed the sense of family in Christmas and encouraged the familial relations developing through activities such as Christmas dinners and gift-giving.

Gift-giving initially occurred in the New Year, however, this changed as the tradition of Christmas began to popularise and take shape. Common gifts were fruits, nuts, coins or handmade trinkets, and were usually hung on the Christmas tree. When the gifts became bigger as Christmas further developed, they eventually moved to under the tree, as they no longer were able to hang on the tree. Cards were introduced in 1843 when Henry Cole commissioned an artist to create a card for Christmas. These also became a popular tradition, even adopted by Victoria, and cards began to show developing Christmas traditions such as dinner and gifts. Due to the Industrial Revolution, cards became printed in a mass level, and this meant that the custom of sending cards at Christmas was further fuelled due to the commercialism of society.

Decorating the home became common, and was adopted by the women in the house. In 1881, a book was published which conducted women on how to correctly decorate their homes in order to celebrate Christmas. Mince pies were changed considerably from their Tudor roots, and no longer contained meat, showing similar recipes to modern treats. Carols were revived and popularised to celebrate the holiday, and old words were put to new tunes, with the first collection of carols being published in 1813. Charles Dicken’s literature ‘A Christmas Carol’ epitomised the new, fast-developing Victorian Christmas, and reinforced themes of happiness and family that are present in a modern Christmas, even today.

Happy Holidays everyone,

From, The Victorian Blogger

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