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Very Victorian Christmas Traditions – A Fun Guide, Part 1:

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Though the origins of our Christmas celebrations can be traced back hundreds (even thousands!) of years in history, many of our modern-day Christmas traditions became popular in the Victorian era (that’s the time when Victoria was the Queen of England).

Queen Victoria and her husband Albert were obsessed with Christmas and started many new seasonal trends when everyone wanted to copy their festive celebrations. You’ll probably recognise a lot of our 21st-century Christmas traditions in Victoria and Albert’s holiday festivities from over 150 years ago.

In Part 1 of our Very Victorian Christmas Traditions guide, we’ve put together a list of very modern Christmas traditions that were made popular by Queen Victoria and her family during the Victorian Era:

Queen Victoria & her family gathered around the Christmas Tree - Courtesy of the Illustrated News
Queen Victoria & her family gathered around the Christmas Tree - The Illustrated London News

Christmas Trees:

Though people had been bringing evergreen trees into their homes during winter for thousands of years, it was Queen Victoria’s husband Albert that made it super trendy in England. He brought the idea over to England from his home in Germany where indoor Christmas trees were already a festive tradition. Albert loved a good Christmas tree and the royals would always have one in Windsor Castle at Christmas.

These evergreen trees were originally adorned with candles, which was a pretty major fire hazard (thank goodness for electric lighting eh!). When an illustration of Queen Victoria and her family gathered around a Christmas Tree was published in The Illustrated London News in 1848, everyone in Victorian England wanted one of their own at home.

Christmas Gift Giving:

The Victorians made this tradition of gift giving pretty popular too. To begin with, most Victorian families couldn’t afford to buy presents for their family and friends. But when factories became popular, people had more money and mass-produced gifts became much more affordable.

Festive gifts would traditionally be handed out on Christmas Eve when the Christmas tree was put up and decorated. In fact, people in the Victorian era originally hung their gifts on their trees like ornaments. Soon, the trinkets got too big and so the tradition of placing gifts underneath the tree began in earnest. Queen Victoria however, preferred her presents to be unwrapped and placed on a table. How boring! The unwrapping is the best part!

Queen Victoria's servants, like the servants of Sarah Acland pictured here, would have received gifts from their masters at Christmas.

Christmas Charity:

Queen Victoria didn’t just give gifts to her family, she would always make sure to give presents to her servants and staff too. Every year, she insisted that the royals join the servants in their quarters to share gifts before the family even opened their own presents.

This idea of giving to others to show gratitude and support was an essential part of Victoria’s Christmas celebrations. This heart-warming tradition is something we continue today when we show our Christmas Spirit by donating to charity or supporting those in need during the festive season.

Check out this replica Victorian Christmas dinner at Harewood Hall - courtesy of jcw1967

Christmas Dinner:

Queen Victoria was certainly known for enjoying a lavish feast and her Christmas banquets really took the biscuit! The royal family would enjoy several courses for their Christmas dinner, including mince pies. Though don’t get too excited, mince pies were traditionally a savoury dish, unlike the tasty, sweet pies we make today.

There were enough different meats served during the feast to clear a farmyard. Victoria served the traditional fare that we still see today, such as turkey or beef, but added a few indulgent options too, such as boar’s head, exotic birds and even a swan or two! Don’t forget dessert though, because the Victorian Era saw the rise in popularity of the alcohol-laced (and fiery delight!) traditional Christmas Pudding.

More photos of Victorian Christmas food? Don't mind if we do! - Courtesy of jcw1967

So that’s it for our list of modern Christmas traditions that were made popular by Queen Victoria and the royals. But what of the Christmas traditions that were actually invented by the Victorians and are still used today? Check out Part 2 of our Very Victorian Christmas Traditions guide to find the answers.


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