Written by our volunteer Charlie (aka-Santa's elf!)
At the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, Christmas was barely celebrated in Britain. By the end however, it was considered to be the most important event of the calendar, with a focus on traditions and family. Charles Dickens contributed massively to the spread of these traditions through his famous book ‘A Christmas Carol’, a book that influenced how many Victorian families approached the season.
It is widely believed that Prince Albert was responsible for the introduction of the Christmas tree. He was born in Germany, where Evergreen trees were traditionally brought into the home at Christmas time to be decorated with sweets and candles. In 1848, the royal family was pictured celebrating Christmas around a decorated tree, starting a fashion that quickly spread.
It is thought that a gentleman named Henry Cole started the idea of Christmas Cards. In 1843, he commissioned an artist to make a card which depicted a family sitting around a dinner table with a Christmas message. While many wealthy Victorian families soon followed suit, children were encouraged to create their own cards, with Queen Victoria’s children doing the same thing.
A British sweet maker by the name Tom Smith came up with the idea of Christmas crackers in 1848. After an inspirational visit to Paris, Tom wrapped sweets in paper that snapped when pulled apart. Throughout the era, his idea was adapted and improved, with the sweets often replaced with paper hats and small gifts.
The first Victorian Christmas Presents were small – sweets & handmade items that hung from branches of the Christmas tree. As the Victorian Period progressed, the gifts became bigger and more expensive. These larger gifts were too heavy to hang from the tree’s branches, instead being placed underneath the tree.
Mince Pies of the Victorian age were first made from meat following an old Tudor recipe while mince pies made later in the nineteenth century were made more like the ones we enjoy today. The Victorians also made famous the turkey Christmas lunch that many of us enjoy today. While some families celebrated with roast goose or beef, the majority were celebrating with roast turkey by the end of the era.