Let’s raise a glass of sherry or two to Queen Victoria, without the Victorians Christmas could be quite a dull affair! Queen Victoria took the throne in 1837 and thank goodness she did, prior to the Victorian era Christmas was a non-event. No Santa Claus to send a letter to, no Christmas carols to sing along to, no Christmas crackers to pull and no jaunty Christmas cards from friends and relatives far and wide. Worse still you didn’t even get any time off work, now that is harsh!
Rich House, Poor House.
The divide between rich and poor was more apparent than ever at Christmas time.
At first only the very rich could afford to buy toys for their children (they were handcrafted and very expensive). As time went by toys such as books and games were manufactured on a grand scale in factories, which meant prices went down and “average” people could afford to treat their kids too. As for the children from the poorest families, they would still receive a stocking from Santa, but the best they could hope for was an orange, an apple and a handful of nuts (if they were exceptionally lucky)! Rich folk would take a couple of days of work to celebrate the festive season and servants and the like would carry on working. However, as a bonus they were often presented with a box containing money and gifts from their wealthy counterparts and bosses. Christmas became known as a family affair, a time to reconnect with relatives and celebrate with loved ones (if you could afford it)!
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
The name Father Christmas originates from an ancient festival held to celebrate midwinter, back then Father Christmas wore a green suit to symbolise the coming Spring. The name Santa Claus comes from the US, where Dutch settlers arrived bringing tales of a St Nicholas, a man known for bringing gifts and toys. In the 1870’s the name Santa Claus became familiar in England.
Christmas Cards for Your Loved Ones
We can thank Rowland Hill for introducing the idea of posting a letter or card, he introduced the concept of placing a penny stamp on an envelope and sending it to a location within the UK. The idea caught on and on the back of it a man called Sir Henry Cole decided to sell cards to commemorate Christmas at his London art shop. The idea became popular when postage costs fell from one penny to just halfpenny in 1870, and soon everyone was popping a card in the post to wish their nearest and dearest a very Merry Christmas!
Decorate the Tree
Most of us are probably aware that Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s beloved hubby) brought the tradition of putting up a Christmas tree with him from his native home of Germany. He introduced the concept to Windsor Castle in the 1840’s, Victoria approved and word soon spread that the best way to celebrate Christmas was to put up and decorate a Christmas tree.
Pull a Cracker
We have a sweet manufacturer to thank for the invention of the Christmas cracker, a man called Tom Smith. Back in 1846 Tom decided he needed to think up a way to sell more sweets. He developed the idea of wrapping his sweets in colourful paper to make them more attractive. Wanting to go a step further he decided the best course of action would be to pop a toy inside too. A paper hat soon followed and at some point, he thought a small explosion might be a good idea to attract attention!
Sing A Christmas Carol
Many Christmas carols became popular from the 1840’s onwards, including O Come all ye Faithful, Once in Royal David’s City, See Amid the Winters Snow, O Little Town of Bethlehem and Away in a Manger. During the Victorian era musicians and singers would travel around the streets – singing and playing Christmas carols to all.
Victorian Heartwood Creek Range by Jim Shore
We have a lot to thank the Victorians for and to celebrate their contribution to the festive season I am pleased to include the Victoria Heartwood Creek range in my collection.
The Jim Shore figurines and hanging ornaments include Victorian Santa’s and Victorian Snowman, along with a Victorian Angel, a Victorian Santa onboard a train, and an intricate 10-piece Victoria nativity set. All are carefully crafted and hand-painted and would make a stunning addition to your home this Christmas.