The idea of Christmas in the Victorian era immediately evokes imagery of lushly decorated trees, lavish dinners and balls, and Santa. Many of our most beloved Christmas traditions were started or made popular by the Victorians.
At the beginning of the 19th century, it was barely considered a holiday by many. But my the end of the 19th century was the most popular. Some of this rise in popularity is attributed to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, since he brought many of his own traditions, including a Christmas tree, to Britain, which then became popular in America and other places. Christmas trees and lavish decorations soon became household mainstays.
The Christmas Card, Christmas Cracker, and caroling were also made popular as well. Many gave gifts at the new year, but as Christmas became more and more popular, giving moved as well. The first gifts were simple, then, they became more and more lavish, especially as businesses began to see the commercial side of Christmas. The Christmas feast can be traced back to the Middle Ages but the Victorians shaped it into what it is today. This includes the Christmas turkey. Santa, as we know him, also took shape in the Victorian era.
Here’s a menu for a “Traditional Christmas Dinner” from the 1890 Godey’s Lady’s Book.
So much of what we think of as Christmas was popularized by the Victorian, yet at the same time, the idea of a Victorian Christmas still makes me think of a simpler time. Here are some ideas ranging from easy to difficult to create some of your own Victorian Christmas magic.
Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens. INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, book two, CHARMED VENGEANCE, and book three, FRAGILE DESTINY, are now available from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.