Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, be plenteous in mercy is to have the real spirit of Christmas. Calvin Coolidge.

Monday, 3 December 2012


Let's read and watch:

Victorian Christmas Cards
(see November posts)

Victorian Christmas
(see November posts)
Students' Posts in Week THREE

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If your contribution is more than 5 entries, extra points will be counted as bonus ones!


  1. Victorian Christmas Traditions:

    Many of our modern-day Christmas customs have their roots in Victorian Christmas traditions. Here are a few examples:

    Victorian Christmas Ornament** The tradition of writing and sending Christmas cards still remains popular to this day. The generally richly illustrated cards soon enjoyed great popularity in Great Britain from where they began their triumphal march throughout the rest of the world.

    ** Although the Christmas tree is not a British achievement, it probably owes its worldwide popularity to Prince Consort Albert who introduced the custom in England. Ultimately the Christmas tree was to become even more popular in the USA than in Europe.

    ** In 1846, two London bakers invented the ever-popular Christmas cracker and carol singers can also trace their origin back to the Victorian period.

    ** The British middle and upper classes were also the originators of the popular custom of exchanging Christmas presents. During Queen Victoria’s time, adults began to give children home-made or bought toys.

    ** And last but not least, although usually attributed to the USA, Santa Claus also comes from Victorian England. He went by the name of “Father Christmas” and brought the children their gifts on Christmas Eve.

    1. Kissing beneath the mistletoe, Santa, exchanging gifts, caroling, all wonderful traditions embraced by the Victorian Era, are some of our best loved traditions. The Nativity has been celebrated since the 4th century. "The Colonies", however, were slow to embrace the idea of Christmas, as the celebration of a Father Christmas in his long fur trimmed robes was seen as a heathenish notion.

      The custom of caroling is a purely English tradition which was quickly taken up by America. In cities, the approaching holiday season was marked by strolling carolers, usually in groups of three, one caroler to play violin, one to sing, and one to sell sheet music. Holiday shoppers would pause to purchase music, joining in the trio for a few stanzas, before hurrying homeward. Carolers would stop at houses to sing, hoping to be invited in for a warm drink.

    2. The first Christmas card was created and sent in 1843. A man named John Calcott Horsley printed the first Christmas card for Sir Henry Cole, the friend who had given him the idea.
      Sir Henry Cole, a wealthy British businessman, wanted a card he could proudly send to friends and professional acquaintances to wish them a "Merry Christmas."
      The card depicted a typical English family enjoying the holiday, and people performing acts of charity. An important part of Victorian Christmas spirit. A thousand copies of the card were printed and sold for one shilling. This is reportedly the first Christmas card to be produced and sold to the public

  2. Victorian Christmas Stockings are so beautiful, delicate and elegant. If you chose to have a Victorian Theme Christmas, having the stockings just adds that much more beauty and elegance to your home. When I think of Victorian Christmas Stockings I see stockings that are needle pointed, made of velvet and monogrammed with your initials. They are decorated with sparkles and pearls, fuzzy plums and a lot of shiny ribbon.

    Christmas Stocking are a huge part of the Christmas tradition. Even if you do not have a chimney in your home it is okay, no matter where you place the stockings Santa Claus will find them.

    1. Come Christmas time and kids almost start jumping with excitement. They begin thinking about Christmas tree, Christmas cake, Christmas decorations and the quintessential Christmas stockings. Infact, a child waits desperately for the Christmas stockings. Since, stocking acts like a storehouse of the presents that will be given by Santa Claus. For a child, stocking represents the real reason for celebrating Christmas. Kids wait for the moment they will be able to hang their Christmas stockings from the fireplace mantle and find it full of gifts the next morning. Given below are some great ideas that can be utilized while buying or making Christmas stocking for kids.

      The traditional woolen stocking, with the picture of Santa Claus embroidered on it is still very much in vogue today. You can further decorate it with the help of colorful laces.
      Beads, sequins and metallic threads can be used for making Christmas stockings attractive to the children.
      You can personalize the Christmas stocking for your children by placing their picture or that of their favorite cartoon character on it.
      Make soft woolen stockings for your child this year. You can add colorful pictures to the stocking to add to its appeal.
      Stockings adorned with fabric colors or sparkles give a trendy look. Old stockings can also be given a new life if you decorate them with some colorful embellishments.
      The main use of Christmas stockings is for receiving gifts. So, do not forget to fill the stocking with small gifts and treasures that will be appreciated by your child.

  3. Traditional Victorian Christmas began with the Advent wreath symbolizing faith, joy, love and peace, usually observed on the first Sunday of Advent, when a candle is lit as a symbol of the light glorifying Christ’s birth on this earth. Also the custom of "Boxing Day” which originated during the Victorian era normally observed on December 26, when all the churches open their alms boxes and distribute the money to the poor. Though with the passage of time, this day is symbolized, as the day of exchanging gifts and presents among one’s family and friends. During the Victorian rule in England, it was customary to place lighted candles in windows during the 12 days of Christmas celebration as a gesture of welcoming weary travelers who are in search of food and shelter.

  4. Victorian Christmas celebrations also remained uncompleted with mouth watering dishes like ‘Sweetbread Pates’, ‘Roast Turkey’, ‘Parisian Salad’ and fancy Christmas cakes. Traditional Victorian Christmas decorations were characterized by decoration of Christmas trees by fruits, nuts and ribbons first introduced by Prince Albert in 1840. It’s during this time, that people allover England popularized the custom of decorating their houses with dresdens, pine cones and candy canes. Thus Victorian Christmas tradition represented the very multi faced culture of the then Victorian era.

  5. The holidays - The wealth generated by the new factories and industries of the Victorian age allowed middle class families in England and Wales to take time off work and celebrate over two days, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Boxing Day, December 26th, earned its name as the day servants and working people opened the boxes in which they had collected gifts of money from the "rich folk". Those new fangled inventions, the railways allowed the country folk who had moved into the towns and cities in search of work to return home for a family Christmas.
    The Scots have always preferred to postpone the celebrations for a few days to welcome in the New Year, in the style that is Hogmanay. Christmas Day itself did not become a holiday in Scotland until many years after Victoria's reign and it has only been within the last 20-30 years that this has been extended to include Boxing Day.

    The Gifts -At the start of Victoria's reign, children's toys tended to be handmade and hence expensive, generally restricting availability to those "rich folk" again. With factories however came mass production, which brought with it games, dolls, books and clockwork toys all at a more affordable price. Affordable that is to "middle class" children. In a "poor child's" Christmas stocking, which first became popular from around 1870, only an apple, orange and a few nuts could be found.

  6. Commercial Christmas industry was borne by Victorians in 1848 when a British confectioner, Tom Smith, invented a bold new way to sell sweets. Inspired by a trip to Paris where he saw bon bons – sugared almonds wrapped in twists of paper – he came up with the idea of the Christmas cracker: a simple package filled with sweets that snapped when pulled apart. The sweets were replaced by small gifts and paper hats in the late Victorian period, and remain in this form as an essential part of a modern Christmas.

    Decorating the home at Christmas also became a more elaborate affair. The medieval tradition of using evergreens continued, however the style and placement of these decorations became more important. The old custom of simply decking walls and windows with sprigs and twigs was sniffed at. Uniformity, order and elegance were encouraged. There were instructions on how to make elaborate synthetic decorations for those residing in towns. In 1881 Cassell's Family Magazine gave strict directions to the lady of the house: "To bring about a general feeling of enjoyment, much depends on the surroundings… It is worth while to bestow some little trouble on the decoration of the rooms".

    Gift giving had traditionally been at New Year but moved as Christmas became more important to the Victorians. Initially gifts were rather modest – fruit, nuts, sweets and small handmade trinkets. These were usually hung on the Christmas tree. However, as gift giving became more central to the festival, and the gifts became bigger and shop-bought, they moved under the tree.

  7. Facts About Victorian Christmas Cards

    In 1843 Henry Cole asked an artist to make a card for him to send out at Christmas. It featured a family sitting around a dinner table and a Christmas message. The idea seemed to catch on and soon many wealthy Victorian families were sending out their own cards.
    Victorian children were encouraged to make their own cards and there is even evidence that Queen Victoria had her own children do this.
    The first printed Christmas cards were very expensive to manufacture, but the price went down dramatically during the Victorian period. This was due to improvements in colour printing technology and the new halfpenny postage rate.
    In 1880 over 11 million Christmas cards were printed!

  8. Victorian Christmas Crackers
    In 1848 a British sweet maker, Tom Smith, came up with a the idea for the Christmas cracker. When he visited Paris Tom noticed that sugared almonds were sold in twists of paper (bon bons). He used this as inspiration for his Christmas crackers – sweets wrapped in a paper package that snapped apart when you pulled the ends.
    During the Victorian period, Tom Smith’s idea was adapted and improved. The sweets were often replaced with Christmas paper hats and small gifts were added.
    The Christmas crackers of the later Victorian era were quite similar to the crackers placed on today’s Christmas dinner tables.

  9. Facts about Victorian Christmas Dinner
    The Victorians are also responsible for popularising many of the traditional British Christmas foods.
    The first Victorian mince pies were made of meat (a recipe that dates from Tudor times), but the mince pies made later in the nineteenth century didn’t contain meat and were pretty much like the ones we enjoy today.
    Although some Victorian families celebrated Christmas with roast goose or beef, it was in Victorian times that roast turkey became the main part of the Christmas dinner. By the end of the Victorian period, most families would roast a turkey for Christmas.

    1. After attending church the featured event was Christmas dinner. Evergreens, flowers, and the best china and linens graced the dining room table.. Christmas wasn't the mercantile occasion that would cause merchants to stock up goods. It was more about food than gifts, because what you gave to one another or to your friends was a feast.
      The Christmas dinner was one of the high points of the day. A large meal, was served and after dinner there might be fireworks, and most certainly singing and games. When the Victorians sat down to Christmas dinner, what did they eat? Victorian feasts were sumptuous. There would certainly have been a fowl of some kind, maybe a goose. There would have been a pudding. In a more affluent home, there might have been a clear turtle soup. Menus varied according to country and region. Some of the menu items the Victorians dined upon included roasted goose, standing rib of beef with Yorkshire pudding, a boar's head, turkey, ham, oysters, dressing, potatoes, cranberry pie, mince pie, and plum pudding. When Victoria came to the throne, the center piece of the Christmas feast, in the North, was most likely to be roast beef while the goose was the traditional fare of the South.
      The serving of the pudding was one of the great rituals of the Victorian Christmas dinner; indeed it was almost as much a ceremony as the creation of the pudding. The plum pudding, made up of suet, bread crumbs, raisins, and spices, was a family effort. On Stir-Up Sunday at the beginning of Advent, each family member took a turn a beating the pudding, making a wish, and stirring clockwise for good luck. Then a ring, coin, or thimble was tossed into the batter.
      Until Christmas Day the pudding hung from a sack, then it was boiled in beef broth for eight hours. After dinner it was turned out on a platter, topped with a sprig of holly, set alight, and carried into the dining room.
      The head of the household sliced and served it, asking a blessing on all who prepared it. Biting into the portion with the ring meant marriage; the coin, wealth; and the thimble, a happy but single life.
      Could there ever be a "bad" Christmas pudding? It seems most unlikely; for the ritual surrounding it and the joy of the occasion was such as to guarantee its success, no matter how poor the household in which it was served. In addition to the plum pudding, of course, Christmas cake and mince pies were also popular.

  10. Victorian Christmas Presents and Gifts
    At the beginning of the Victorian period families often gave and received presents to celebrate the New Year. But, as the importance of Christmas as a family celebration grew, the gift-giving was moved to Christmas.
    The first Victorian Christmas presents were fairly small – gifts such as fruits, nuts, sweets and handmade items were hung from the branches of the Christmas tree.
    The size and expense of the gifts steadily increased. Victorians started to buy gifts from shops and they were often too big to hang from the tree. By the end of the Victorian era, many families had taken to leaving Christmas gifts under the tree.

    1. The exchange of presents, of ancient origin, symbolized the good luck, prosperity, and happiness wished for friends. The Victorians began planning their presents many months ahead. Most chershed were handmade, needlework, or something useful. People exchanged rememberances with family and friends. Children made their gifts as well.

  11. Other Facts About Christmas in Victorian Times
    The family was really important to the Victorians. They saw Christmas as a time to focus on family relationships, and most of the Victorian Christmas traditions (such as gift giving, eating a Christmas dinner, decorating the Christmas tree) were shared by all of the family members.
    Charles Dickens is also credited with spreading many of the Christmas traditions in Victorian times. His famous book, A Christmas Carol, was very popular and it influenced how Victorian families approached the celebration of Christmas.

  12. Popular Victorian Christmas texts

    An increasingly technologically advanced publishing industry began at this time to exploit the fact that people were prepared to spend a few more pennies at Christmas. While the well-to-do had always bought gift-books and keepsakes at Christmas, in the 1840s publishers were able to produce cheaper special Christmas reading material for the aspiring middle classes - Christmas supplements and special editions of serials and magazines.

    Pantomimes had been in existence for centuries but in Victorian times they became associated with Christmas and were read or performed at home.

    Fairy tales and ghost stories exploded into Victorian artistic and literary life with the publication of Edgar Taylor’s first English translation of Grimm’s Fairy Tales in 1823.

    Cheap reprint editions of such favourite classics as The Pilgrim’s Progress, Robinson Crusoe and the novels of Walter Scott would have been read alongside newer texts written especially for Christmas, such as Lady Barker’s A Christmas Cake: in Four Quarters (1871) or Juliana Ewing’s Snap-dragons, a Tale of Christmas Eve (1888).

    Periodicals also became popular. Chapman & Hall published special Christmas editions aimed predominantly at the middle-classes. These contained Christmas stories by Dickens, such as Somebody’s Luggage, and extra Christmas editions of Household Words.

    As for Religious texts, they were also wide spread at that time. Christmas was a lucrative time of year even for religious societies such as The Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge and The Religious Tract Society.They seized the opportunity to publish special Christmas tracts and texts such as Little Peter: A Christmas Morality for Children of Any Age (1887) and A New Christmas Tract, or The Right Way of Rejoicing at Christmas (1830).

  13. Victorian Christmas popular games

    There were ghostly story-telling hours by the fireside; conjurors; dancing and Punch and Judy, theatrical or magic lantern shows. An intrinsic part of the entertainment program was the parlor game.

    The Victorians were particularly fond of parlor games, a number of which have since been forgotten, though a select few have been passed down to successive generations and remain firm favorites even today. Victorian families were among the first ever to be blessed with abundant free time, and among the last to pass that time without television.

    They enjoyed numerous interactive parlor activities, ranging from cards (euchre, bridge, seven-up) and board games (dominoes, checkers, chess) to 20 Questions and charades. Young ladies and their mothers spent their leisure time learning needlecrafts, creating ornaments, and reading novels. Popular titles of the age include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES and L. Frank Baum's THE WIZARD OF OZ.

    Male and female family members alike frequently gathered around a parlor organ, a piano, or a player piano to have "a sing."

  14. Victorian Christmas Music

    In Victorian times street sellers would walk through the streets advertising their goods and wares with songs. These street cries could be heard each day in the cities and towns.The Victorians loved music so it is no surprise that they revived the old medieval carols and also composed new ones, both secular and religious. The Victorians, with their interest in parlor singing began to use cheerful, easily sung music in their Christmas celebrations. Musicians began collecting old nativity carols as well as writing new ones to be sung at Christmas. Two notable collections were "A Good Christmas Box" in 1847 and "Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern" in 1871. During Christmas services, strains of "O Holy Night" and the Messiah filled the churches.

  15. Christmas cards cut across cultural, economic and demographic groups. Christmas cards are an English innovation. They were originally penned by boys who were practicing their writing skills and they would present these handmade cards to their parents. Interesting fact that Christmas cards are the most popular of all the seasonal cards; no other card comes close. They comprise 60% of the total sales! Here you can find beautiful e-cards for your friends -

  16. Victorian Christmas Ornaments
    Victorians made mistletoe balls for the same reason we hang mistletoe today, to steal a kiss from an unsuspecting person passing under it. The mistletoe ball or 'kissing ball' was always made out of evergreen branches and was often decorated with scented herbs and foliage.
    Victorians thought nothing of spending hours over their room decorations to get them looking just right. When the desired greenery and berries were not available, they would make their own. These inspired holly berries require just peas and wax.
    Victorians used greenery from the countryside and gardens to decorate their homes at Christmas. Ivy Ribbons are a very Victorian take on room decorations that emphasised making nature into a perfect, ordered form.
    The tradition of the wreath pre-dates the Victorians by centuries, but it was a tradition they embraced and made their own. Victorian wreaths were elaborate and made with all types of evergreen foliage, such as holly, ivy and yew. To decorate they would use fruit and pine cones.
    For many evenings before the tree arrived, the diligent woman of the Victorian house was secretly making ornaments by cutting shapes from coloured papers and card to adorn the Christmas tree.

    Many of the Christmas carols that we sing today originated during Victorian times. The Victorians loved music and, as part of their holiday celebrations, began to revive old medieval English carols. They also composed new ones, both secular and religious, most of which are English. Parlor singing also became a popular form of home entertainment since the Victorians had no radio, television, or Internet In order for everyone to participate, regardless of their singing ability, they featured easily sung music that celebrated the cheer of Christmas. As musicians assembled old nativity carols into collections such as "A Good Christmas Box" in 1847 and "Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern" in 1871, Handel’s Messiah and strains of "O Holy Night" filled the churches.
    It became common for middle and upper middle class Victorians to have a piano or organ in their parlors. Those that couldn’t afford this luxury purchased a roller or "cob" organ, a device which had a roller that looked like a cob of corn that played music when turned, for $3.95 from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. After the Christmas feast, the family would gather around to sing Christmas carols like "O Christmas Tree" and "Silent Night" from Germany.
    The tradition of caroling from door to door originated with the "waits," an ancient English custom of going from house to house and singing in exchange for food. Singing carols outdoors on the front porches of houses became popular in both England and the United States as early as the late 19th Century and continued into the 20th. The English carol "Here We Come a-Wassailing" best describes the tradition of the waits.
    Originally carols were part of secular holiday celebrations–something to sing at home. But with the substitution of new words to old carols and the composition of new religious songs about Christmas, people began to sing carols as part of church services. The Victorians wrote or revised some of today’s favorite Christmas carols. Such all-time favorites as "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," "Good Christian Men Rejoice," "O Little Town of Bethlehem, "Away in a Manger," and "We Three Kings" reflected the religious side of Christmas while cheerful songs like "Jingle Bells" celebrated the joyous side of the holiday season.

  18. Father Christmas / Santa Claus - Normally associated with the bringer of the above gifts, is Father Christmas or Santa Claus. The two are in fact two entirely separate stories. Father Christmas was originally part of an old English midwinter festival, normally dressed in green, a sign of the returning spring. The stories of St. Nicholas (Sinter Klaas in Holland) came via Dutch settlers to America in the 17th Century. From the 1870's Sinter Klass became known in Britain as Santa Claus and with him came his unique gift and toy distribution system - reindeer and sleigh.

  19. Turkey Time - Turkeys had been brought to Britain from America hundreds of years before Victorian times. When Victoria first came to the throne however, both chicken and turkey were too expensive for most people to enjoy. In northern England roast beef was the traditional fayre for Christmas dinner while in London and the south, goose was favourite. Many poor people made do with rabbit. On the other hand, the Christmas Day menu for Queen Victoria and family in 1840 included both beef and of course a royal roast swan or two. By the end of the century most people feasted on turkey for their Christmas dinner. The great journey to London started for the turkey sometime in October. Feet clad in fashionable but hardwearing leather the unsuspecting birds would have set out on the 80-mile hike from the Norfolk farms. Arriving obviously a little tired and on the scrawny side they must have thought London hospitality unbeatable as they feasted and fattened on the last few weeks before Christmas!

  20. Candles were a firm fixture of the Victorian Christmas and were used in different variants. In many households, an advent wreath would be displayed in the run-up to Christmas. The four candles and the evergreen wreath symbolise belief, good fortune, love and peace. Lighting the candles is supposed to show that the birth of Christ brings light into the world. It was also customary to display a candle in the window during the twelve days of the Christmas festivities. It was intended as a sign to travellers that food and shelter was available in this house. Merchants also liked to give their customers candles. They were indispensible and a vital part of every Victorian Christmas tree. Often made by hand and carefully placed on each branch.

  21. At Christmas time, English living rooms are always decorated with great care. A sprig of mistletoe hangs above the doors. According to Victorian custom, any woman passing beneath a sprig of mistletoe had to allow herself to be kissed. The man, who was allowed to kiss the lady beneath the sprig of mistletoe, had to pluck one of the white berries. In bygone days, the mistletoe was a holy plant that drove away all evil and beneath which enemies could be reconciled with an embrace.

    Mistletoe sprigs are not the only decorations to grace the doors. Holly branches with bright red berries and ivy tendrils are also to be seen. They are mentioned in the carol “The Holly and the Ivy”.

    Holly and mistletoe are the favourite plants of the British when it comes to Christmas decorations. The beautiful glossy leaves of the holly and its red berries are also part of the festive tradition. According to English folklore, holly branches bring good fortune. A holly in the garden is said to protect the house against lightning and fire. This tradition has it that holly and ivy belong together as male and female elements. The prickly holly with its firm leaves represents the man, the ivy, the smooth plant with the softer leaves, the woman.

  22. Gift Ideas from Victorian period:
    A fan, a scarf, Eau de Cologne, a silk-lined sewing basket, a pin-cushion in the shape of a strawberry or tomato that could also be used as a Christmas tree decoration, a silver thimble with sewing scissors or a magazine subscription.

    Embroidered braces, slippers, monogrammed tobacco pouch, an umbrella or a cigar case.

    A plant, a picture frame, a small tablecloth, a bookmark or pomander.

    Pretty hair ribbons, a muff, a small wax doll in a cradle, a fan, a sewing set, a canary or mittens.

    A toboggan, a stamp album, carved and painted wooden toy animals, a model railway, marbles, building bricks, a money box or a wind-up soldier.

  23. Victorian gentlemen do not care for the pretty trifles and decorations that delight ladies; and as for real necessities, they are apt to go and buy anything that is a convenience just as soon as it is discovered. Knickknacks, articles of china, ect,. are generally useless to them.

    Victorian lady cannot give a gentleman a gift of great value because he would certainly feel bound to return one still more valuable and thus her gift would lose all its grace and retain only a selfish commercial aspect.

    What, then, shall she give? Here is the woman’s advantage. She has her hands, while men must transact all their present giving in hard cash. She can hem fine handkerchiefs-and in order to give them intrinsic value, if their relationship warrants such a favor, she can embroider the name or monogram with her own hair. If the hair is dark it has a very pretty, graceful effect, and the design may be shaded by mingling the different hair of the family. We knew a gentlemen who for years lost every handkerchief he took to the office; at length his wife marked them with her own hair, and he never lost another. Such gifts are made precious by love, time and talent.

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  25. If we speak about Victorian Christmas decoration, we should mention about some simple facts: use as much garland and foliage as you can grift from the side of the road or local forestry. Then drape the best room of your house with said foliage. Most Victorians were not wealthy but that did not stifle their love for decorating. The Victorians used mistletoe suspended from the ceiling. Those who met under it could claim a kiss. The number of kisses allowed under each plant depended on the number of berries. Each time a kiss was given, a berry was taken off. No more berries, no more kisses!

  26. And let's back and speak again about presents and gifts of Victorian Era. The bare fact of rarity can raise an object commercially valueless, to an aesthetic level. Souvenirs from famous places or of famous people, a bouquet of wild thyme from Mount Hymettus, an ancient Jewish shekel or Roman coin, etc. All such things are very suitable as presents to gentlemen and will be far more valued than pins, studs, ect., which only represent a certain number of dollars and cents. Do not give a person who is socially your equal a richer present than he is able to give you. He will be more mortified than pleased. But between equals it is often an elegance to disregard cost and depend on rarity, because gold cannot always purchase it. Still between very rich people presents should also be very rich or else their riches are set above their friendship and generosity.