My Uncle recently bought me this fantastic book "Christmas Past, A selection from Victorian Magazines" compiled by Dulcie M. Ashdown. It features a wide variety of engravings and illustrations from the time, it was hard to pick my favourites, but I hope you enjoy what I have selected!
I have always loved the Victorian approach to Christmas, the evergreens and candles, a table groaning with goose, fruit and puddings and three spirits visiting you on Christmas Eve to warn you to halt with the grumpiness - what's not to like? In fact, I automatically imagine 'The Ghost of Christmas Present' when thinking of Victorian Christmas! Here he is in all his glory:
But back to the book!
Firstly, I was so pleased to find a Christmas dinner menu mentioned, notice the 'Mock Turtle Soup' - of course we know Heston LOVES a good mock turtle, but to be honest...I think I'll stick to something simple! However, I would fully trust the recipe for roast pheasant, delicious!
The book is full of articles, but I think the introduction speaks for itself. I hope you enjoy the selection of pages I have found - I COULD have scanned the whole book, I need to read it properly before Christmas, I bet it will help me feel festive!
"The Victorian Christmas is everyones ideal of what a Christmas ought to be: children enraptured before a candle-lit tree, tables groaning under an abundance of turkey, goose and pudding, stories of ghosts and hobgoblins, carol singers, church bells ringing through midnight air.
It is only in the last hundred years or so that such Christmas feasts and entertainments have been shared by the majority, rather than by the privileged few. In Victorian times, 'Christmas as at Windsor' became the established order, for it was the festivities of the royal family that people took as their model. The popular press was responsible for the wide dissemination of the new ideas, and from the mid-1860s Christmas features, stories, poems and pictures, beyond the purely religious sphere, won a place in December issues of magazines. "
...it is often said that the Victorians invented Christmas as we know it today. But what I think what is meant by this is that the Victorians pinned down the commercial opportunities that swung into action. They did invent Christmas Cards (described in the book as "little artistic works with which our home is flooded at the festive time"). And they certainly found the story of the baby born in a shed in the stony Judean hills too spartan and unromantic, so wrapped it up in tinsel with heavenly babes, candle-lit christmas trees, presents, turkey and plum pudding. Victorian lady poets even changed the weather at the nativity, waxing lyrical about the 'bleak mid-winter' and 'snow on snow' "
I think the following poem is just splendid, and the perfect festive note to end on! If you want more Victorian Christmastide, I highly recommend a visit to this blog, and search on Youtube for the BBC Victorian Christmas Farm videos!