Holiday Customs in Victorian England

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Holiday Customs in Victorian England Although Christ's Nativity has been celebrated since the 4th century, most of the English customs we are familiar with today are as recent as the mid-19th century. Many of the early ceremonies were started with pagan beliefs. “The Protestant Reformation condemned most of these pagan customs as superstitious and banned public celebrations of Christmas.” Michelle J. Hoppe. It wasn't until Prince Albert married Queen Victoria and brought many German customs with him that Christmas began to gain popularity again. “One of the first signs of Christmas was the arrival of the Christmas card in the post. John Calcott Horsley designed the first Christmas card in 1846 for Sir Henry Cole, Chairman of the Society of the Arts. Only 1000 cards were printed that first year and were expensive, but the pattern for the future was formed.” Encyclopedia. Then in 1870, postage was reduced. Thus began the real spread of the Christmas card. By the early 1870s, the custom had reached the United States. Christmas decorations sometimes appeared well before the holiday, also, but many still held to the old superstition that it was bad luck to put up a evergreen (Christmas Tree) before Christmas Eve. ”The most favored plants were all 'magical' because of the mid-winter berries they produced--mistletoe, holly and ivy. The red berry of the holly was believed to protect one against witchcraft.” Encyclopedia. The sprig had to be carried into the house by a male, as the berry is on the 'male' holly plant. One use for holly sprigs was to decorate the Christmas pudding. The 'female' ivy symbolized immortality. “Mistletoe, because of its pagan origins, was not allowed in any church. Kissing under the mistletoe was English custom and only as many berries as were on the mistletoe, could there be kisses. For after every kiss, a berry had to be removed from the sprig.” English Customs. The Christmas tree can truly be called a Victorian innovation. The custom of a lighted tree began in Germany then made its way to America. “It wasn't until Prince Albert, of German descent, brought the Christmas tree to England in 1840 that it gained popularity there. By 1847, the trees at Windsor Castle were laden with presents as well as wax candles.” Michelle J. Hoppe. The tradition spread as English citizens followed the Royal example. The trees and other decorations were removed on Twelfth Night (January 6).

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