Sunday 22 December 2013

V is for...Victorians

It maybe 2013 but the way Christmas is celebrated owes very much to the traditions and customs that were popularized in the 19th Century. The establishment of a nationwide postal service and higher literacy rates meant that sending letters became much easier and much cheaper. The first commercial Christmas card is credited to Henry Cole in 1843. Once printing technology improved and the introduction of the halfpenny postage rate the sending of Christmas cards became accessible to everyone.

It is often thought that it was Prince Albert who introduced the Christmas tree to Britain but it is more correct to say that he popularized them. The Georgian monarchs of the 18th and early 19th Century had Christmas trees but their German ancestry meant they were not universally popular in Britain and so their customs were not copied among their subjects. Prince Albert would have had Christmas tree when he was a child back in Germany as was the norm. It was an illustration published in 1846 showing him with Queen Victoria and some of their children by a fir tree adorned with candles and decorations that made a Christmas tree a must for every home both in Britain and on the East coast of America.

Giving presents at one time was reserved for New Year but with the Victorians making Christmas more of a celebration gifts started to be exchanged earlier. At first they were just tokens of appreciation, such as fruit, nuts and homemade trinkets, and they were hung on the tree. As the age of commercialization took hold shops started promoting goods especially for giving as Christmas presents which could be wrapped and placed under the tree.

Other Christmas traditions that the Victorians popularized were crackers, mince pies made with fruit rather than meat, eating of turkey rather than goose or beef, singing of carols, Father Christmas, Boxing Day – indeed having any time off at Christmas, and entertaining a large number of relatives. Many people over the next couple of days will probably be blaming the Victorians for these customs rather thanking them.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I appreciate your comments. If you have any tips, tricks or tweaks please pass them on!