Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Joys of a Victorian Christmas by Tara Kingston

Welcome back to History Undressed, guest author and my good friend, Tara Kingston! (Okay, and I must plug this! Tara and I have an anthology releasing in print together on January 9th! PIRATE'S PAST has her tale, Claimed by the Captain and my tale, A Pirate's Bounty!) Today Tara's giving us a taste of Christmas during the Victorian era. Leave a comment for your chance to win an ecopy of CLAIMED BY THE CAPTAIN! Happy Holidays!

The Joys of a Victorian Christmas

Tara Kingston

Trimming the Christmas tree is a favorite tradition in my family. Every year, I relish the chance to reflect on cherished memories triggered by ornaments that have a sentimental place in my heart and add to my ornament collection with new and beautiful acquisitions that will someday become treasured favorites. I can’t imagine Christmas without a beautiful tree. Without the influence of the Victorians, decorated Christmas trees as well as many other holiday favorites  might never have become beloved traditions.

Victorian Christmas traditions were centered around the family. Of these enduring celebrations, perhaps the most beloved is the Christmas tree. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert,  brought the custom of a decorated Christmas tree from his German homeland. Not long after his marriage to Victoria, Prince Albert had the first Christmas tree displayed in Windsor Castle in 1841. Several years later, the Illustrated London News published a drawing of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children celebrating the holiday with a Christmas tree, and soon thereafter, families throughout England boasted a decorated tree during the Christmas season.

Many other popular Christmas traditions became popular during Victoria’s reign. Some of these include:

* Christmas Cards ~ the combination of the halfpenny postage rate, which allowed a letter or card to be mailed throughout England inexpensively, and the advances in affordable color printing technology brought Christmas cards to popularity. By 1880, more than eleven million cards were produced each year.

* Exchanging Christmas Presents ~ The giving of small gifts at New Year’s shifted to become a central part of the Victorian holiday tradition. Gifts were given and placed under the tree in anticipation of the holiday.

* Christmas Carols ~ Yet another Victorian tradition, the singing of favorite holiday songs (which were at the time new and popular hits) to mark the holiday season emerged during this era, as did the custom of traveling in groups from house to house to joyously sing Christmas carols.

* Christmas Vacation ~ During the Victorian era, middle class families began the tradition of taking time off from work to spend with their families.

* Mistletoe ~ Who can resist a kiss beneath the mistletoe? This girl certainly can’t! What a lovely holiday tradition!

These are just a few of the more popular Victorian holiday traditions that continue to endure today. In the spirit of gift giving, I’ll be giving away a copy of Claimed by the Captain to one commenter. Simply tell us which holiday tradition is your favorite and why…it does NOT need to be one of these five. Many more Victorian traditions remain popular favorites. What are some of your favorite traditions?

I’d also love your friendship this holiday season. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter, or stop by my blog or webpage.

Merry Christmas! May you have a wonderful holiday season!


Callie said...

Great post. What beautiful traditions from our past. I especially like the one about taking time from work to spend with the family. It seems Christmas now is a rush from Black Friday to Christmas Eve to see who can buy the most. Then a day spent opening presents, eating and drinking too much, and then 'lets throw away the Christmas tree cause it's all over.' So sad. Christmas day is the beginning of the 12 days of Christmas that our ancestors knew how to celebrate.

Tara said...

So true, Callie. I try to avoid the mad rush of it all and spend Christmas Eve with an extended family dinner, so Christmas can be a more relaxed affair with my immediate family.

Merry Christmas!

Eli Yanti said...

my fave tradition holiday is gathering with family, eat some tradition food and got some present ;)

Tara said...

What are some of your favorite holiday foods? I actually can't stand turkey...yes, I know I'm weird...one year I made a yummy lasagne...loved it!

Susan Macatee said...

A decorated tree is my absolute favorite! Just wouldn't feel like Christmas without it!

Kathleen Bittner Roth said...

I have a new (two seasons now) tradition: I walk the streets of a beautiful city that is elegantly decorated for the holidays: Budapest, Hungary. Even the bridges that connect Buda to Pest (they were once two separate cities) are strung with lights. The streets and avenues are awesome at night. I make certain I am out each evening to just stand and stare or I ride the trolleys and trams and take in the sights. What a city.Thanks for sharing with us.

Tara said...

Sounds beautiful, Kathleen!

Like you, Susan, I love Christmas trees...mine is filled with memories :)


VampedChik said...

Those are all great traditions. Every year my family and I will make toffee to give out to are family and friends. Its a tradition around our house. Thanks,

Suzi said...

I adore sending and receiving Christmas cards and newsletters.
The rest of the year is often so rushed that it's hard to catch up with all the news from family and friends, but at Christmas everyone sends an update of their family's news. And it's lovely to read all the messages over the holidays.

Tara said...

Ooh, I love toffee...care to share the recipe?


Tara said...


I love sending Christmas cards...I have to admit that now, I love the electronic ones, too...they are so beautiful and imaginative, especially the Hallmark Smilebox cards.


Teri Linscott said...

I had no idea this was when Christmas card exchanging became popular. Just when I thought I knew it all! :-)

Tara said...

The winner of a pdf of Claimed by the Captain is Eli Yanti...please email me at tarakingstonromance@gmail.com to receive your prize.

Thanks to everyone who left a comment!