During her reign from 1837 to 1901, Great Britain's Queen Victoria helped to usher many changes into her country as well as the world at large. One aspect of British culture that Victoria and her husband Prince Albert forever impacted was the annual Christmas celebration. During Victorian times, Britons adopted decorating traditions that are still standard today in many countries throughout the world.
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Prior to Victoria's reign, Christmas trees were not common in British homes. Evergreen Christmas trees were, however, a common tradition in homes in Germany, from where the Queen's husband Prince Albert hailed. Albert is often credited with popularising Christmas trees in Britain, and by the height of the Victorian era, most British citizens had Christmas trees in their homes. While natural evergreens were most common, the Victorian era also saw the advent of artificial Christmas trees, which were usually small enough to sit on a table and made of goose feathers.
Tree Ornaments and Decorations
Victorians elaborately decorated their Christmas trees in a style that is still used in traditional Christmas celebrations. Victorian trees usually featured a hodgepodge of ornaments and decorations. Families handmade many of the ornaments that adorned the trees, and they also used edible items, such as marzipan, gingerbread, popcorn garlands and dried fruit and nuts to make the tree look festive. Angels were used as the traditional tree-topper. Later in the era, store-bought glass ornaments and embossed cardboard ornaments, called Dresdens, imported from Germany became common in Victorian England.
Christmas crackers are another favourite decoration that were born in the Victorian era. A British confectioner by the name of Tom Smith came up with the idea in 1848, borrowing the idea from similar French packaging. The original Christmas crackers were small bundles of candies that made a snapping noise when opened. As the Victorian era progressed, the crackers began to resemble those we see today and contained paper hats and small gifts rather than sweets.
Garlands and Greenery
Affluent Victorian homes were decorated with garlands and greenery beyond the traditional Christmas tree. While the use of Christmas greenery dates back before Victoria's reign, the style became more refined during the Victorian era. Natural greenery was common as it echoed the popularity of botanical hobbies during the period. Boughs of greenery and holly were often draped from the chandelier over the Christmas dinner table and placed throughout the home.
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