A Very Victorian Christmas – Part 1
During the Victorian era we saw many new advancements across the world, steam power and electricity were flinging society forward and changing the way in which everyone lived out their lives. The people of the times loved the new and exciting advancements but that doesn’t mean they weren’t also interested in our illustrious past too. The Victorians were obsessed with history and traditions and they added their whole spin on the lot. That being said no event was likely more changed than one of the biggest celebrations today, Christmas time. Let’s take a look at some of the things that we know and love today that were actually introduced or made popular by the Victorians during the 19th century.
The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree that is now a staple part of our decorations every year wasn’t commonplace, particularly in Britain until Victoria ruled. Before that people may have used a holly branch or perhaps some mistletoe to add a bit of festive cheer but it is thought that Prince Albert made the full tree popular. The Christmas tree is actually a German tradition and was used to decorate the royal home before Albert arrived on the scene, in fact, the Queens mother was German and it was because of her that they added it to their home during the festive season. The fashion really took off after a drawing of the royal family gathered around a decorated Christmas tree at their home in Windsor was published by The Illustrated London News in 1848.
In the year 1840 Britain saw the introduction of the penny post, this meant that anybody could purchase a stamp for a single penny in order to send a letter. A simple concept that we all know very well today (though the price has somewhat climbed since) however this was a new and fresh concept at the time. As you can imagine the festive season became a busy time with people all over the country sending letters to their loved ones. In 1843 Sir Henry Cole decided create specially designed cards with a picture on the front to sell in his store, he printed 1000 of these and sold them for a shilling each. The cards proved a success and were often sent by the rich to their relatives. Cards however concreted themselves as a common Christmas tradition after 1870 when a new halfpenny postage stamp was introduced, this meant made the postal service even more accessible. By 1880 the Christmas card industry was so popular that over 11 million had been printed with a huge range of different images that included festive themes, flowers, stories, jokes and (if you can believe it) chickens were surprisingly popular too. In fact, many cards didn’t even have a Christmas theme to them, some were simply just art prints. Naturally they were still working out the kinks in what is now a staple tradition.