Thursday, 2 December 2010

Christmas over the Centuries

{Origins}: So London has woken up to witness a snowy sky, to the surprise of us all, so far it has been the most exciting thing ever, besides of course the arrival of traditional German-style Winter Wonderland and if Christmas is not your thing at all, well, not much else to look forward to. I don’t mind it at all,  I love the festive atmosphere that Christmas brings along, but I have to admit  I am not a big fan of the artificial excitement that I see around, besides that - there are some things that I will always love about Christmas : the tree, the decorations, the colours and the crafts, but where did it all started?


Christmas Past at the Geffrye Museum 

a museum of English homes and gardens -


A visitor to England from France noted the following about how Christmas Day was celebrated in the 1720s:

….the English have many customs we do not know of. They wish each other Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, presents are given, and no one may dispense with this custom. On this festive day churches, the entrances to housed, rooms,kitchens and halls are decked with laurels, rosemary and other greenery.


In this room a small family party is about to take place on Twelfth Night – the 6th of January. Twelfth Night has been celebrated as the end of the Christmas season since the Middle Ages. It combines elements of the Christian feast of Epiphany, the visit of the wise men to the stable at Bethlehem, and the end of the twelve days around the pagan feast of Saturnalia, centred around winter solstice.

From medieval times, the revels have always incorporated elaborates role reversal. Traditionally a King and a Queen are chosen for the night, to lead the proceedings served by the ‘ courtiers’. The King is elected by the discovery of a dried bean in the traditional Twelfth-Night cake, and the Queen by a pea. Because the selection was random, the situation could arise whereby a servant was elected Bean King and was served by his master all night.

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This rooms shows a middle-class Victoria drawing room of the 1850. A family gathering is taking place in the evening of Christmas day. The room is dominated by the Christmas tree.

It was during the reign of Queen Victoria that many of our Christmas customs first became widespread especially the practice of decorating a fir tree in the home. It is popular misconception that Prince Albert, Victoria’s consort, was the person who introduced the Christmas tree form Germany, however it probably came to the UK around the end of the 18th century, but had been the practice in Germany since at least the 16th century. Queen Charlotte, the German wife if George III, may have been the first to introduce it to Britain for her your family during the 1780s and 1790s.

It was Prince Albert’s enthusiasm for the customs however, which popularised Christmas three outside the Court circles. The royal family had a Christmas tree at Windsor every year after the couple’s marriage of 1840 which really popularised the customs, when illustrations of the tree, with five of the royal children standing with their parents and grandmother, were published.


In this room a family celebrate Christmas in an artistic manner. Their decorations are inspired by the Aesthetic Movement and its love  of all things Japanese. They have decorated branches of twigs with small lanterns, and have also used oriental fans to decorate the room.

The Christmas card, unlike the Christmas tree, was an English invention. In the late 18 century, children would sometimes give their parents written seasonal greetings in order to show their ability at handwriting. However the ‘first’ commercial Christmas card was devised by Sir Henry Cole in 1843.


Anonymous said...

Lovely post Mandarine!! So inspiring and full of tricks about Christmas... that remind me too about sending by the week end my christmas card!!! Have a nice week end! W. the antiques lovers

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