Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas, Victorian Style

Like many things from the Victorian Era, we have inherited celebrating Christmas the way we do: as a day with family and friends, surrounded by green decorations and a tree, exchanging presents. Prior to the nineteenth-century, Christmas was hardly celebrated. Yet by the end of the century, Christmas was fully installed as the family-oriented tradition we have today.

And it began with Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. Her marriage to Prince Albert brought German traditions to Britain, such as the decorated Christmas tree, which was a tradition reminiscent of Prince Albert's childhood in Germany.

Shortly after this image was published in the Illustrated London News, Britains began decorated a tree, decorated with candles, fruit, and ornaments.

Decorating homes for the Christmas holiday became an elaborate affair during the Victorian era. Using evergreens, a medieval tradition, continued still but the way decorations were styled and placed became more uniformed, orderly, and elegant. Instructions were provided for elaborate decorations in lady's magazines, such as this entry in Cassell's Family Magazine for cultivating evergreens.

The Victorian magazine The Designer, published an article regarding holiday decorations that advises "a few simple floral decorations carefully and harmoniously carried out will assuredly add to the pleasures of the day." And of course, evergreens are a focus:
If one has an abundance of greens, such as Holly, Mistletoe, Laurel or anything else that is evergreen, the decoration of archways, the mantel, or even of corners between the windows and doors may be appropriately carried out but only when there is an abundance of material.

So as you decorate your tree and home this season, give small thanks to the Victorians who imbued the holiday with the practices we have today for celebrating the season.


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