Victorian Christmas Facts and Information

The celebration of Christmas was very important to the Victorians. Here are some facts about the different traditions and activities associated with Christmas in Victorian times.

  • At the beginning of the Victorian era Christmas was hardly celebrated at all in Britain. However, by the end of the period, it was considered to be the biggest and most important annual celebration in the Victorian calendar.

  • The Victorians started (or at least made popular) many of the Christmas activities we do today.
  • Many people think that Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s husband) was responsible for shaping how Christmas was celebrated by British Victorian families. He was born in Germany. In Germany evergreen trees were traditionally brought into the home at Christmas time and decorated (with candles, sweets and fruit). In 1848 the royal family were pictured celebrating Christmas around such a decorated tree, and the fashion for Christmas trees spread very quickly from this point on.

Facts About Victorian Christmas Cards

  • In 1843 Henry Cole asked an artist to make a card for him to send out at Christmas. It featured a family sitting around a dinner table and a Christmas message. The idea seemed to catch on and soon many wealthy Victorian families were sending out their own cards.
  • Victorian children were encouraged to make their own cards and there is even evidence that Queen Victoria had her own children do this.
  • The first printed Christmas cards were very expensive to manufacture, but the price went down dramatically during the Victorian period. This was due to improvements in colour printing technology and the new halfpenny postage rate.
  • In 1880 over 11 million Christmas cards were printed!

Victorian Christmas Crackers

  • In 1848 a British sweet maker, Tom Smith, came up with a the idea for the Christmas cracker. When he visited Paris Tom noticed that sugared almonds were sold in twists of paper (bon bons). He used this as inspiration for his Christmas crackers – sweets wrapped in a paper package that snapped apart when you pulled the ends.
  • During the Victorian period, Tom Smith’s idea was adapted and improved. The sweets were often replaced with Christmas paper hats and small gifts were added.
  • The Christmas crackers of the later Victorian era were quite similar to the crackers placed on today’s Christmas dinner tables.

Victorian Christmas Presents and Gifts

  • At the beginning of the Victorian period families often gave and received presents to celebrate the New Year. But, as the importance of Christmas as a family celebration grew, the gift-giving was moved to Christmas.
  • The first Victorian Christmas presents were fairly small – gifts such as fruits, nuts, sweets and handmade items were hung from the branches of the Christmas tree.
  • The size and expense of the gifts steadily increased. Victorians started to buy gifts from shops and they were often too big to hang from the tree. By the end of the Victorian era, many families had taken to leaving Christmas gifts under the tree.

Facts about Victorian Christmas Dinner

  • The Victorians are also responsible for popularising many of the traditional British Christmas foods.
  • The first Victorian mince pies were made of meat (a recipe that dates from Tudor times), but the mince pies made later in the nineteenth century didn’t contain meat and were pretty much like the ones we enjoy today.
  • Although some Victorian families celebrated Christmas with roast goose or beef, it was in Victorian times that roast turkey became the main part of the Christmas dinner. By the end of the Victorian period, most families would roast a turkey for Christmas.

Other Facts About Christmas in Victorian Times

  • The family was really important to the Victorians. They saw Christmas as a time to focus on family relationships, and most of the Victorian Christmas traditions (such as gift giving, eating a Christmas dinner, decorating the Christmas tree) were shared by all of the family members.
  • Charles Dickens is also credited with spreading many of the Christmas traditions in Victorian times. His famous book, A Christmas Carol, was very popular and it influenced how Victorian families approached the celebration of Christmas.

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