Winter Dusts the Forest by Lucy Moore
Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year where we can enjoy all the traditions that come with celebrating the occasion. The Victorians were real pioneers of Christmas traditions and can also be credited with bringing back some old favourites, adding their own twists. Safe to say, our image of a classic family Christmas scene would not be the same without the Victorians. Here are some of the customs the Victorians brought to festive art and Christmas itself:
Christmas Wreath Butterfly Five Card Pack by Sara Lawson
Once a Medieval tradition, wreaths were brought back into fashion by Queen Victoria for adorning doors and hallways to add to the Christmas spirit. Wreathes were made by bending hazel wood into a circle and elaborately decorated with evergreens, ribbon pine cones and even whole fruits like berries and apples.
Robin on snowy holly bush by Margaret Riordan
Christmas cards were created in 1843 and soon became all the rage. Despite their huge popularity, these cards were very expensive (averaging at about one shilling – that's about £30 in today’s money), so most people were encouraged to make their own. The style of Christmas card art in the Victorian era was either a simple illustration or an over the top collage. Towards the end of the 1800s cards had become much more affordable and laid down the foundations for the huge greeting cards industry we have today.
Greetings by Marcus Clarke
One of the most well-known pieces of trivia about Christmas trees is that they were introduced to Britain as a Christmas decoration by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. Prince Albert borrowed the already well established idea of having an evergreen tree in the home from Germany.
Red Christmas by Patrick Lee
In 1848 the national newspapers printed an image of the Royal family having fun decorating their first Christmas tree with dried oranges, ribbons and candles (yes, naked flame!)
Christmas decoration - personalised transparent tree bauble by Ioannis Mitrakas
Christmas crackers were first invented by London based sweet maker, Tom Smith, in 1848. The Victorian Christmas was all about making decorations with the family and encouraging everyone to enjoy some art and craft. Soon families across the country enjoyed making their own crackers and adding items we still include today such as paper hats.
Dickens - A Christmas Carol (Vintage) by Peter Walters
Another important element of a Victorian Christmas was good will to all. Charles Dickens made charity a main theme in his famous novel, A Christmas Carol, as it was such an important part of Victorian festivities.
Dickensian street by Jennie James
It is also perhaps from this theme that the Victorians had the idea to borrow Father Christmas, the gift giver, from his original midwinter appearance and fuse him with the German character of Saint Nicholas. By the 1870s, Father Christmas was fully established as the secret gift giver on December 24th as a British tradition.
Christmas dinner – again, a medieval tradition – received an update by the Victorians. The traditional choice of beef or goose was replaced by the more fashionable bird, turkey. Suddenly mild panic spread across low wage earning households each year for fear of not finding a cheap turkey for Christmas dinner. Queen Victoria was a fan of the new craze of a turkey dinner and has been known to also eat swans for Christmas!
Christmas Duck by Carolyn Towers
At the beginning of the Victorian era, most children's toys were handmade from dolls to rocking horses.
Distant Voices by Andrew McNeile Jones
The industrial revolution made all manner of toys more available to children all over the country – that is to say, middle class children. Those from poorer families would still receive an apple, orange and a handful of nuts in their stocks (another Victorian Christmas creation, circa 1870).
Portrait of the Victorian era by Igor Shulman
There are lots of fantastic paintings on our online gallery to get you in the Christmas mood – so many inspired by the Victorian Christmas. And why not take a look at our gift vouchers to give as a gift this Christmas?
Steam Mallett tank by Philip Smith