The Holly and the Ivy: A Victorian Christmas – Part 2

DATED: 01.12.15

Following on from our first post relating to the wonders of Victorian life and an in-depth look at how they would have celebrated over the Christmas period, we will now explore the rest of Christmas as we know it.

We established that the Victorians didn’t just have a morbid curiosity about the darker side of London – although our Jack the Ripper tour begs to differ – but that they enjoyed family time and merriment, too.

Having discovered how decorating trees came about, along with gift giving traditions and the holiday period itself, we will now cast our beady little detective eyes elsewhere. We take a look at the historical papers relating to the history of Santa, the day itself and any other traditions that contribute towards making Christmas as family-centric as it is.

Santa

Tradition suggests the original Father Christmas was dressed in green, to symbolise the imminent return of spring. Combine this with the tales of the jovial Saint Nick (Sinter Klaas in Dutch) in his red robes, however, and the merge of various religious festivals and traditions becomes quite apparent.

The Big Day

Christmas truthfully began on Christmas Eve, as usually by then the whole family would have arrived and so the festivities could begin. After months of planning the gifts; they were finally exchanged on the evening of Christmas Eve, followed by a programme of performance. This could consist of anything from poem recitals to plays, along with singing and dancing – which was generally the norm.

Christmas Day began with mass and then the meal was prepared. While turkey wasn’t popular at the turn of the century – beef, chicken, goose and rabbit were the preferred Christmas dinner choice. By the beginning of the 1900s, turkey was much more readily available to all. Christmas pudding was steeped in history and tradition, as well as brandy. Often made on the Sunday before Advent, and containing a silver coin to bring prosperity; it would be doused in alcohol repeatedly before being presented with a brandy sauce and sprig of holly.

The day that followed, now known as Boxing Day, was traditionally the day for charity. The rich would leave boxes of money for their servants and tradesmen. The poor and needy were gifted with money, food and drink if they went door to door.  Similarly, Carol singers would walk around melodiously singing popular hymns and raising money for those in need.

Life would return to normal with relative ease following the Christmas period. Shops and businesses would still trade on Christmas day so the transition was not as dramatic as it is in today’s world.

If you’ve still not quite got your fill of Victorian history and fancy something a little gorier (a prominent theme of the Victorian time, that’s for sure), then book yourself and some friends onto the Jack the Ripper tour this Christmas, for an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.

For more information or to book your tickets, visit our website here.

 


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