Sunday, October 21, 2018  

An Old Fashioned Christmas

Victorian Christmas Traditions

Christmas was the most celebrated of holidays by the Victorians. Little surprise, since it was the one holiday when a tree could be decorated (as well as everything else in the home!); the most extravagant food was prepared and served on a table set with the finest linens, china, and utensils; and gifts were exchanged. Of course, the Victorians' dedication to church and family was the motivation for all of this celebrating. Here are some traditions commonly associated with Victorian Christmas celebrating, and some insight on how those traditions came to be.

The Christmas Tree
§ The Christmas tree, an old German custom, became very popular with Victorians during Queen Victoria's reign. The Queen and her husband, Prince Albert of Germany, put a Christmas tree up every year. As for America, German settlers brought the Christmas tree tradition with them. However, when illustrations of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their children circled around their family tree were published in Godey's Lady's Book in 1850, the Christmas tree gained its great popularity in America.

A Little Bit of Tree History:
§ At first, Victorian Christmas trees were usually small, thin, and simple with decorations. Around the mid 1800's, trees were still small, but had many more decorations and trimmings. More handmade ornaments were added, as well as treats and small gifts. Ornaments weren't usually kept from year to year, since the tree was usually hanging empty by Christmas day. The treats had been eaten and the small hanging gifts had been given away. Just before the turn of the century (1900), most ornaments were commercially made, such as glass-blown bulbs and colored tinsel, and these expensive items were used year after year.

§ The tradition of decorating a tree with fruit, flowers, candles, paper decorations, and sweets, originated in Germany in the 1500's. Victorians added some of their own tastes and customs of decorating, which included: paper fans; gingerbread men and other cookies; small wind-up toys such as soldiers; paper tussie mussies and cornucopias filled with nuts, fruits, and candies; and of course strings of garland made of popcorn and cranberries, or paper. These homemade decorations were later replaced with varieties of imported glass ornaments from Germany.

§ Victorians decorated every possible space of their home for Christmas. There was the tree, of course, but ropes and garlands of spruce and evergreen were draped, wrapped, and hung in swags over doorways, windows, mirrors, pictures, stair rails, and cabinets. Holly, ivy, and mistletoe were also used, but for reasons other than just decorating. These plants were believed to have protective powers, and the superstitious Victorians placed them around the home to keep evil spirits away.

More Holiday Decorating Ideas ...

Christmas Cards
§ The tradition of sending Christmas cards was started by the Victorians. Christmas cards became most popular after the mid 1800's when Christmas cards were commercially produced in mass. The Christmas card saved time writing the usual Christmas family letter, and it was always a treat to receive a beautifully colored greeting.

Gift Giving
§ Victorians often made Christmas gifts by hand; lack of money wasn't the only reason for doing so. Making gifts by hand brought the family together; it made the winter more bearable and a handmade gift was made with love and held special meaning for the receiver. Other gifts given included food (jams, jellies, fruits, candies, fudge, and nuts), and practicals, such as stationery, pens, tea accessories, jewelry, cologne or perfume, hair accessories, gloves, mittens, scarves, doilies, toy trains, and sleds.

Great Gift Giving Ideas ...

The Christmas Dinner
§ The Christmas dinner was the highlight of Christmas Day. The table was set with the finest china, linens, utensils, and food possible. Popular items included: roasted goose and sauce, or roast beef, (other meats also), dressings, potatoes, cakes, fruit and mincemeat pies, and of course, plum pudding. The plum pudding was probably the most important tradition the Victorians honored at their Christmas dinner. The pudding was made with suet, breadcrumbs, raisins, currants, mixed peel, eggs, and brandy. The whole family was involved in making the pudding. The pudding was usually made a month before Christmas and aged. There was a custom in making plum pudding: when the batter was made, the family would take turns stirring it, starting with the oldest family member, ending with the youngest. It was stirred with a wooden spoon in a clockwise direction. During each one's turn stirring, three wishes were made.

An Authentic Victorian Recipe For Plum Pudding ...

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