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Stepping back in time to a Victorian Christmas

Monday 20 December in Community

Ever wondered what Christmas on the Isle of Man was like 150 years ago? Though more than a century has passed, there are many Victorian traditions that still take place in today’s world, from the food we eat to the decorations we use and the stories we tell. Each year, the Grove Museum in Ramsey is transformed into the Victorian era through Manx National Heritage’s annual Victorian Christmas Celebration. Site Supervisor at the Grove Museum, Daniel Spencer told us more.

Are there any Christmas traditions from the Victorian era that are still present today?

Christmas to this day has been heavily influenced by the Victorians. The use of Christmas trees and the decorating of the tree is a tradition still enjoyed. Whilst it was the Germans who started the tradition, it was brought over to England by members of the Royal Family in the 1800’s, and was taken up by many families of Victorian times, especially the wealthy ones. Other traditions include the sending of Christmas cards, with the first commercial Christmas card being produced in 1843, which took off with the introductions of half penny stamps in 1870. Christmas Crackers, Christmas games and even what we eat on the day has also been heavily influenced by the Victorians.

What would you consider to be the main features of a Victorian Christmas?

A few things come to mind with a ‘Victorian Christmas’. The tree is always a big part of it. In the Victorian times they would light up their trees with small stick candles (thankfully nowadays you can get LED candles which are much safer) that help give a tree a more traditional look. The use of greenery in your decorations (holly and ivy are very traditional choices) also help with the overall aesthetic.

Who are the main figures we associate with a Victorian Christmas?

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert always come to mind when we think of Victorian Christmas, with that very famous illustration of the two of them and their family around a Christmas tree which helped make the decorated tree so popular in Victorian Britain.

Why is it important to share this moment in history?

It’s always a case of why share any moment from history? I find it’s important as it gives us an understanding of why we do things, where we have come from and to learn from the mistakes of the past. In relation to Victorian Christmas, a lot of what we do these days have been influenced by the past and I think it’s always important to appreciate this.

What festive celebrations are taking place at the Grove Museum?

Each year we have our Victorian Christmas at the Grove Museum in Ramsey where we decorate the house with Victorian decorations, crafts and even host Father Christmas in his more traditional green outfit. The event is a lovely leap back in time to a place that has influenced the festive season we know today.

How much preparation goes into getting the site ready for a Victorian Christmas?

A lot of time, research and effort from the site team goes into decorating the house. We have to be careful of what we use and where we use it, as many artefacts in the house can be affected if we use to much fresh greenery. We have had to use fake greenery in places and LED candles to negate any potential fire hazards, but all this combined leads to a very warm and inviting place full of Christmas cheer!

Where did you get the inspiration for this?

Charles Dickens’ novel, ‘A Christmas Carol’, influenced me quite a bit but the entire team have drawn on their own inspirations to band together and put on this event. It’s historic, traditional and a very popular time in history and we hope to grow the event in the coming years.

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