Many of the Christmas traditions that are now familiar to us all have their roots in Victorian Britain. Visitors to Blists Hill Victorian Town’s Festive Weekends on 5th – 6th and 12th – 13th December will be able to see some of these traditions brought to life as the Victorian residents start to prepare for Christmas.
The sight of a magnificent fir tree, with dark-green branches lit with twinkling lights, surrounded by a happy family, is one of the strongest and most recognisable images of a traditional Christmas. Many credit Prince Albert with bringing the first Christmas Tree to Britain; an honour which actually falls to Queen Charlotte in the 1790s, Prince Albert simply popularised and made fashionable the existing custom.
Everyday Victorians used all sorts to decorate their trees - furniture from dolls’ houses made wonderful Christmas decorations and the dolls themselves were transformed into fairies and Christmas angels. Trees were festooned with the flags of the countries of the Empire as well as with edible treats such as wafers, sugar twists and boiled sweets. Ribbons and bows were used to introduce a colour scheme to trees, or as in many houses a riot of colour!
The most popular Christmas decoration, going back over many years, was evergreens. Ivy symbolised femininity, while Holly was seen to be masculine. The combination of the two intertwined promised the household fertility for the coming year. Over the festive season Blists Hill Victorian Town will be swathed with garlands and wreathes of freshly-made evergreen decorations as well as colourful paperchains and friezes cut out of newspaper.
Christmas cards were the brainchild of a busy Victorian businessman, Sir Henry Cole. In 1843, fed up with writing numerous Christmas greeting letters, Cole asked a local printer to design 1,000 cards containing a verse and space for his signature. Victorian Christmas cards contained an amazing range of images, many of which did not necessarily have a Christmas theme. Children visiting the Town during the Festive Weekends will be able to have a go at colouring-in their own Christmas greeting card as well as other free activities including candle-dipping, and writing a Christmas message for the Wishing Tree.
Prior to the Victorian era Christmas festivities were a riotous affair full of music, dancing and drinking taking place on what was a rare holiday for all. Queen Victoria, in her role as Mother of the Nation, changed the focus to the family, and especially children. By 1898 Fortnum and Mason had developed the ever popular Christmas Grotto - a tradition which lives on today at Blists Hill Victorian Town delighting children of all ages.
The Victorian Christmas event is at Blists Hill on 5th – 6th and 12th – 13th December, from 10am to 4pm. Entry is £16.95 for adults, £13.50 for 60 plus, £11.50 for children 5 - 18 years in full time education and under 5s are free. While Annual Passport Tickets are not valid for these weekends, holders will receive a 25% discount off the admission price on presentation of their current Passport. A visit to Father Christmas is £3.50 extra per child.
Victorian Christmas Traditions
Find out about Victorian Christmas Traditions Festive Weekends Blists Hill Victorian Town 5th – 6th and 12th – 13th December.