Christmas in the Victorian era started to become a time for family celebrations rather than the large gatherings enjoyed during the Georgian era. The giving of gifts now took place later in the festive season, on Christmas Eve, rather than St Nicholas Day on Dec 6th.
In 1871 Boxing Day became a national holiday (in England),enabling the servants of the wealthy to visit their families, since they would have had to serve their masters on Christmas Day.
What did Victorians eat at Christmas?
The tradition of roast meat continued, and most families that could afford it, had roast goose. The wealthier families ate beef, venison and turkey served with chestnut or veal forcemeat stuffing.
Vegetables had become fashionable with the upper classes, rather than seen as something that was eaten by the lower classes. In addition to the familiar potatoes, parsnips and sprouts that we continue to serve with our dinners today, serving unseasonal vegetables like asparagus and tomatoes was a way of demonstrating the skills of your garden staff.
The Victorians enjoyed a range of sweet treats as part of their Christmas fare. These included a traditional Twelfth Night cake, Christmas pudding and mince pies, as well as gingerbread, figgy pudding and sugar plums, all washed down with a wassail punch, warm brandy and mulled wine.
Try our figgy pudding recipe.
How did Victorians decorate their houses for Christmas?
By 1860, Christmas trees were very popular with the middle classes. Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their family were pictured around their Christmas Tree which encouraged others to do the same. Many Victorians would have had a Christmas tree in their parlour or hall, covered with candles, sweets, fruit, homemade decorations and small gifts.
By the 1870s greeting cards were a familiar sight as they were now mass produced for the British market.