Christmas during Edwardian times was not much different that what we experience today.
By the 1910s, our holiday traditions were firmly established: Families, communities and businesses set up Christmas trees. People exchanged Christmas cards. Caroling was popular. Lavish meals were served. And it was boom time for retailers.
Our contemporary version of Santa Claus was established by the 1910s, thanks to the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas”, and newspapers printed children’s letters to Santa.
The first electric Christmas lights were manufactured in the 1880s, but they weren’t commonplace until mass production lowered the price. Prior to their invention, trees were decorated with lit candles and were a great fire hazard.
Other common decorations included:
- Paper chains
- Fabric, glass or wax balls or figures
- Cranberry and popcorn chains
- Painted walnut shells
Kissing under the mistletoe was a fond tradition. When all the berries, each one representing a kiss, had been plucked, no more kisses were allowed.
The traditional Christmas meal included roast beef, chicken and goose. It also included oysters, chestnuts, pheasant, and stuffing. The stuffing was made of sausage, chestnuts and apples. By the 1910s, turkey was added to the menu.
Mass-produced Christmas cards featured colorful, holiday scenes. Many sent Christmas postcards instead.
Retailers began taking advantage of the holiday in the late Victorian period. This was when the tradition of decorating department store windows began. Sometimes the displays had moveable parts. Prior to this, Christmas gifts were largely homemade.
Christmas carolers also were part of the retail tradition. They encouraged the sale of sheet music as they strolled down streets busy with shoppers. Carolers who went from home to home hoped to be rewarded with a warm drink.
Christmas Eve was a time of merriment: Activities including singing, plays and unwrapping gifts. On Christmas day, families attended church services, ate lavish dinners and visited friends.
Games were a large part of the holiday. People played kissing games, charades, snatching brandy-soaked raisins out of flames and blind man’s bluff. Ghost stories were told.
During the holiday season, families went to music programs and pantomimes. It also was a season of balls and parties.
Does your family have any special Christmas traditions? Leave a comment below.
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