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How to Have a Victorian Christmas: Having a 19th Century Holiday Gathering Like the Victorians

Published by Lizzie Mirmow

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Holiday themes are becoming more and more popular for celebrating holidays, it seems, and Christmas is no exception. Having an old-fashioned Victorian-style Christmas gathering or season is possible, and can be done with authentic Victorian food and drink recipes, decorations, cards, gifts, games and music that everyone at the gathering will enjoy.

Victorian Food and Drink

For dinner, a traditional Victorian Christmas meal might include roast beef and swan for the rich. Toward the end of the era, more people began having turkey for their Christmas dinner, and sometimes quail. Side dishes might include rice croquettes and nesselrode pudding. Plum pudding is another popular treat to have for dessert, and is reminiscent of many classic Christmas stories, which will add charm to any Christmas celebration. Gingerbread is also popular.

For drinks, wassail, hot rum toddy (this one is definitely not for the children) Roman punch, mead and mulled wine were popular during Victorian times, so be sure to have plenty of warm drinks at hand at any Christmas gathering. Coffee is also popular, for those who do not wish to have alcohol or do not like juice.


Victorian Christmas Cards

Rather than buying conventional Christmas cards, Victorian Christmas enthusiasts may wish to make Victorian-style cards or purchase antique ones. Victorian Christmas cards were simple and sweet in style and theme. The cheapness of cards enabled many Victorians to send them to loved ones, and they were a novelty, as they were not invented until the 1840s. Often they had cherubic children on the cover, or flowers and other nature scenes.

Victorian Gifts

One idea is to give loved ones gifts that Victorians traditionally gave each other, particularly handmade gifts. Typical gifts given by the Victorians include purse patterns for the ladies or calling card cases (Victoriana suggests modernizing the gift by giving them to businesswomen friends for their business cards). Hand painted china and other woven gifts such as knitted bookmarks or pincushions were also given. For children, paper dolls are an authentic Victorian gift.

Decorating the Victorian Christmas Tree

Having a Christmas tree in the home became popular in Victorian Britain because of Queen Victoria and her German husband Prince Albert, since Christmas trees were popular in Germany. In the 1840s, more and more people (generally wealthy ones) began to have decorated Christmas trees in their homes as well. The tree can be decorated with store-bought items or handmade ones, depending on what is required.

White lights would be useful to string around the tree, as candles were generally used in Victorian times but would not be feasible now due to fire hazards. Dried fruit and other food were often strung around Christmas trees, such as cranberries, popcorn, nuts and dried apple slices. Beads and lace can also be used.

Victorian Games and Christmas Carols

Christmas crackers are one amusement that is still very popular today, especially in Britain. Crackers are twisted, brightly colored pieces of paper that have tiny toys, jokes, and paper crowns inside of them. The more old-fashioned Victorian ones would have had love notes, called “mottos” in them, along with the other items mentioned above. In order to open the cracker, two people grab hold of either end of the twisted paper and pull.

Victorian Christmas games suitable for children or adults include Blindman’s Bluff (also known as Blindman’s Buff), which entails one person being blindfolded, catching someone in the room and then identifying that person without seeing them. Charades is common and well known. Other games that were around in the Victorian period include Name the Nursery Rhyme, which involves listing lines from a popular nursery rhyme until someone guesses its name.

For music, singing Christmas carols was a very popular pastime in the Victorian era, as it remains for some people today. Most of the songs were religious, such as “Silent Night” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, but others were more secular such as “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Deck the Halls”.

Although having a Victorian Christmas can be different from one’s usual celebration, it can be done simply, subtly and effectively. One does not have to implement all of these things, but only a few if one wishes. Thus it can range from having either a thorough Victorian Christmas or one that is only loosely inspired by Victorian traditions. Either way it will be sure to add a touch of magic to the holidays

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