Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tuesday Ten--Victorian Christmas "Facts"

I was born skeptical—at times, downright cynical. Honestly, by the time I was 14 my sister had labeled me a cynic, so I am not so sure I believe all of what is here. The more traditional I did put into into a Christmas scene in Wicked Woman (not the Goose club!). I added the references at the end, if anyone can substantiate some of this, it would be very nice.

One thing seems for sure—our view of what Christmas is today developed mainly during the Victorian era.

1.) The first Christmas card came out in the 1840’s--1843 to be exact. Sir Henry Cole had John Calcott Horsley to design a card so he wouldn’t have to write a Christmas letter. These days, we seem to do both! The card sold for a shilling a copy.

2.) Queen Victoria herself introduced the Christmas tree in 1846. It was a custom brought by her love and husband, Prince Albert, from Germany. It quickly became the rage in England and else where, including the U.S.
http://www.christmasarchives.com/trees.html They did actually hang presents on the tree as the in the song I'll Be Home For Christmas. This was obviously before people bought cars for Christmas presents. . . .seriously a car? There are commercials, but it seems overboard to me. Okay, some editoralizing there.

3.) The use of mistletoe to decorate for Christmas came before the tree, and was, obviously, never completely usurped by the tree. We just added the tree to it, like we continue to add more and more onto Christmas tradition until some of us feel like we are breaking under the weight. All right, that was a little more editorializing there. . . .I'll stop now.

4.) Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol was (as most of us know) a Victorian novel, published in 1843.

5.) The Christmas goose in A Christmas Carol, was traditional Christmas fare in the south of England, while the north had roast beef. Reading this answered a lot of questions for me, as my family always had roast beef at Christmas, while I knew many others had turkey (American goose)

Gooses were, however, expensive. There wasa working class institution that allowed people without the means to buy a goose, to save up for a Christmas goose—The Goose Club. A worker contributed a small part of his weekly wages to the “club” generally run by the local pub . Sort of like the first Christmas Club account, I guess. Or layaway for a goose? Seems pretty weird to me, but this is what The Victorian Christmas Book says. . . .has anyone else heard of this? Don’t be shy, speak up! Apparently the club would also raffle off wine and port. Hmmmm. They’re pulling my leg, they’ve got to be.

6.) In England plum pudding was also part of the traditional Victorian Christmas feast. Originally it had plums but by Victorian time it was made with raisins and currents. Honestly, I’ve had plum pudding and I don’t think either is particularly good. That could be me. Oh, and they poured alcohol on it and set it aflame.

This also came out of the Victorian Christmas book, by Antony and Peter Miall. It has lots of real Victorian Christmas recipes in it. It appears, however, to be difficult to find new.

7.) The famous poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas was written in 1823. All right, I admit, that is not the Victorian Era. But I’m running out of facts here, so I’m sticking it in.

8.) Our view of Santa Claus as we know him today was established, some say, by Thomas Nash (1840-1902, so he really was a Victorian!) during the Victorian period, 1863-1886. He created a series of drawing for Harper’s Weekly, based, I imagine, partly on the famous poem. He gave Santa a white beard, depicted him in a toy shop, driving a sleigh etc.

9.) It took many years for Christmas to become a legal holiday in the U.S. Alabama was the first state to take legal note of it, in 1836. Boston—which had banned the practice, I believe in the 18th century—didn’t close the public schools for Christmas until 1870. Oklahoma territory declared it a holiday in 1890. I wonder what the Boston school children did before 1870? I can’t imagine parents sent their children to school. . . .

10.) The first Christmas movie was created in 1891—okay that’s a blatant lie, but I ran out of facts and I’m supposed to have 10. Does anyone else have any cool Victorian Christmas stuff to share? Doesn’t have to be documented or anything. I’m all for rumors and here say! Come on, people have to know something, maybe just want to tell us in what style you decorate your Victorian home. . . .

Christmas in America in the 1700’s and 1800’s (from the World book)
The Victorian Christmas Book, Antony and Peter Miall
Dickens’ Christmas, A Victorian Celebration, Simon Callow

Merry Christmas Everyone!


Susan Macatee said...

Great blog, Dee!

And I can't think of anything Victorian-related to add. You seem to have it covered.

As an aside, I don't get those car ads either. I've never known anybody who got a car for Christmas.

Denise Eagan said...

The car thing--doesn't it make you crazy? I mean, don't spouses discuss the car before buying it? And if you don't purchase it out right, then what you're really doing is giving someone a loan for Christmas. I mean, who wants car payments as a Chirstmas gift?

I just don't get it.

Kristin-Marie said...

Victorians DID create the form of Christmas we know and hopefully enjoy today. Wonderful blog.

Anonymous said...

My addition to the car thing is that MasterCard has a great one for the get one gift give it away thing they're doing.

On the actual Victorian Blog, it was great. Makes you think that people really did survive before all this. Makes me wish for some of that simplicity. Except with the Christmas music. I adore Christmas music!

Gretchen Craig said...

What's the scoop on lighting Christmas trees with real candles? Can't imagine the fire risk! For a few years (recently) we had the electric version of candles that glowed and bubbled, but it was a bear getting them to stick upright on the tree. Anyone know about
candle-lit trees?

Gretchen Craig