Victorian Christmas Traditions – The Christmas Tree

A Christmas Tree

I have been looking at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree. The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brillantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects. There were rosy-cheeked dolls, hiding behind the green leaves; and…sugar-plums; there were trinkets for the elder girls, far brighter than any grown-up gold and jewels…there were teetotums, humming tops, needle-cases, pen-wipers…real fruit, made artificially dazzling with gold leaf; imitation apples, pears, and walnuts, crammed with surprises; in short, as a pretty child, before me, delightedly whisped to another pretty child, her bosom friend, “There was everything and more.”

-Charles Dickens, Household Word


We have the Victorians to thank for so many of the celebrations and customs we enjoy at Christmas. They revived old traditions, such as caroling, and invented new ones such as sending Christmas cards.

The Victorians made church-going, gift-giving, and charity to the poor essential parts of the holiday. During this time Father Christmas and Santa Claus became symbols of holiday generosity. Through Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert, German customs grew in popularity, especially the Christmas tree or Christbaum.

A photo of Queen Victoria near a decorated Christmas tree surrounded by her family sparked a tree-trimming inspiration in Victorian homes. The German custom of decorating Christmas trees atop tables gained a new perspective when Victorians selected taller trees from trimming on the floor in their homes. They adorned their evergreen treasures with flickering candles, fancy paper Santas, glistening angels, chocolate wreaths, gilded apples, silver cornucopias decorated with tinsel tassels, and dozens of other beautiful, often hand-made, ornaments.

Most of all, the Victorians made Christmas a family celebration– the Christ Child and children its primary focus. A Victorian Christmas included the exchange of gifts between parents and children; attendance together at Church services; a multi-course family dinner; and visits with friends, relatives, and other families.

In my opinion, this is the perfect Christmas celebration. How about you?
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