Friday, December 16, 2016



   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.
   And in the 1840's, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree as the centrepiece of the royal family's holiday celebration.  In fact many of our festive customs and traditions date back to Victorian times.  The Victorians loved music, many had a piano or organ in the parlor at home and family sing a longs were customary throughout the year.  It is not surprising that they revived the old medieval carols and also composed new ones.



Christmas Cards
   We also have the Victorians to thank for the tradition of sending Christmas cards.  The very first Christmas card was printed in December 1843, at the request of Sir Henry Cole.  The artist J.C. Horsley was commissioned to produce the card which illustrated a wealthy family enjoying a Christmas feast as they all toast the festive season by drinking wine.
   Victorian Christmas cards were extremely elaborate, many gilded and embossed and some in pop up form.


Father 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.


Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe

   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.

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