Although decorating Christmas trees can be traced back to ancient Romans who decorated trees with small pieces of metal during their winter festival, it was not until the 16th century that fir trees where brought indoors at Christmas.
In medieval England and for centuries afterwards, the figure of Father Christmas represented the spirit of benevolence and good cheer. At Christmas time the Victorians also encouraged gift giving and charity to the poor.
Exchanging gifts was a symbol of good luck, happiness and friendship. The Victorians started planning their presents months ahead and most cherished gifts were handmade pieces of needlework or something useful.
During the Roman Solstice Ceremony, holly was used , as it was believed red berries would ward off evil spirits. Ivy was twined in the holly but Mistletoe was not allowed in churches because of its pagan origins. The Victorians used mistletoe suspended from the ceiling and those who met under it could claim a kiss but only if there were berries on the plant. Each time a kiss was exchanged a berry was taken off the plant until no more berries, no more kisses!
Christmas Feast in Victorian Times
After attending church, Victorians had their Christmas dinner to look forward to. This was one of the high points of their day and a large meal was served. There would have been a fowl of some kind and maybe goose. Other foods that may have been on the menu included: turkey, ham, oysters, a boar's head, Yorkshire pudding, cranberry pie, mince pie and plum pudding.
The serving of the pudding was one of the great rituals of the Victorian Christmas dinner. Made of suet, bread crumbs, raisins and spices, the making of the pudding would have been a family effort much enjoyed in the build up to Christmas.
In the evening after presents had been exchanged and food enjoyed, the Victorians would have enjoyed singing, games and fireworks.