Victorian Christmas Traditions

December 05, 2017

Victorian Christmas Traditions

Can you believe that it’s already that time of the year? When the city is all lit up with fairy lights, the air filled with the smell of mince pies and drinking mulled wine on the roof of a car park is no only acceptable but cool. 

If you've passed by one of our stores, you’ve probably noticed that here at Camden Watch Co. we’ve totally embraced the Christmas spirit. After all, in the immortal words of Andy Williams, it’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.

However, did you know that before the reign of Queen Victoria, not a soul in Britain had even heard of this cheerful old guy called Father Christmas, nor did they take time off work to celebrate with family and friends?

Allow us to take you back in time, to the birth of some of our best loved Christmas traditions.

The Victorian Christmas Holidays


The Victorian era not only marked the time of the industrial revolution, which generated great innovations and economic growth in Britain, but also marked a shift in the way people celebrated the Christmas Holidays.

A lot of workers moved to the cities to work in factories, but the birth of railway allowed them to return home to celebrate Christmas. Indeed, this new “middle class” could now take two days off work for Christmas and Boxing Day. 

Boxing Day, which is the day following Christmas, was also invented during Victorian times. It referred to the day when the poor and working class would open the boxes of presents and money gifted to them by the rich, aristocratic Victorians.

This charitable tradition came from good-hearted people such as Charles Dickens - who famously wrote ‘A Christmas Carol’ - who encouraged rich Victorians to give gifts and money to the poor during Christmas.
Gifting Our Loved Ones, A Victorian Tradition


Before the reign of Queen Victoria, giving gifts to loved ones was only accessible to the rich. Indeed, all children’s toys were hand-made, so cost a lot of money.

 But with the industrial revolution came mass production. Toys, board games and dolls all became cheaper, and thus accessible to the middle class.

The Victorian Christmas Tree


As you may know, Queen Victoria was of German descent, and her husband Prince Albert was German. It was he who made the now traditional Christmas Tree so popular in Britain. 

Indeed, decorating the tree at Christmas was already a long standing tradition in Germany. It is only in 1840, when Prince Albert decided to bring a tree into Windsor Castle that it became a tradition in Britain.

Victorians would decorate their trees with candles (which coincidently saw a rise in houses burning down), sugared candies, ribbons and even cakes! Now there's a tradition we could get behind.

The Victorian Christmas Dinner


Most Brits nowadays believe that eating turkey for Christmas dinner is actually a modern tradition brought over by the Americans. However did you know that popular history has it that Henry VIII was the first English king to serve turkey for Christmas? It's true that the first Turkeys brought to England were from the Americas, but in the 16th century, much earlier than most people think.

That being said, turkey wasn't as ubiquitous on the Christmas table as it is nowadays until the latter half of the 20th century, when it became more affordable to the masses. During Victoria's reign, people in the South of England and London would more than likely have eaten goose whilst people from the North would have had roast beef. 

Queen Victoria’s Christmas dinner however both included roast beef and of course royal roast swans.

The Beloved Christmas Crackers


Tom Smiths, a London sweet maker, is credited with inventing the beloved Christmas Cracker in 1846.

After one of his trips to France, the Victorian decided to wrap up his sweets like the french “bonbons” in a twist of coloured papers.

However, he decided to spice them up by adding the now famous paper hats, small toys, love notes and made them go off with a bang. They were such a hit that they have remained a British tradition ever since


The traditional Christmas Card


Ah, what would be a Christmas without a good old Christmas card? 

As you may well know, sending and receiving cards is a huge part of British culture, the UK card industry being 10 years ahead on any other item of design in the world!

Our obsession of buying those Christmas cards (Brits buying more cards than any other nationcomes once again from the Victorians!

Sir Henry Cole, pioneer of the penny post and director of the V&A Museum, was the one who first introduced the Christmas card in 1843. With the postage of a card being only one penny, it was a simple, cheap and thus popular gift for Christmas. However, the popularity became a real tradition when in 1870 the halfpenny postage was introduced. 

Haven’t found the perfect Christmas Card yet? Not to worry, we have you covered with these three, available in store at Camden and Boxpark :



In need of ideas to fill your stocking? We've got you covered on that too! 
What about our smoky Worker’s Blend Tea with one of these fine Gentlemen:

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