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A Victorian Scrapbook

A Scrapbook of Newspaper Articles Compiled by George Burgess (1829-1905)

Victorian Culture and Life

Christmas Items

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Transcript from original newspaper article: -


Christmas ItemsPLUM PUDDING is probably a modification of the ancient “Christmas pie,” made of a goose and half a dozen fowls.

MINCE PIES, called in the time of Queen Elizabeth “minched pies,” and to this day in Scotland “munched pies,” formed a very important item in a Christmas bill of fare. They were originally made in the shape of a crutch or cradle, to typify the manger at Bethlehem.

MISTLETOE – The Druids paid – more especially at Christmas time – all the honours and reverence due to divinity to the mistletoe. The very appellation Druid, is, according to Camden, derived from this particular feature of their worship. Another legend says that they adorned their houses with it, “that the sylvan spirits might repair to them, and so remain unnipped with frost and cold winds, until the milder season had renewed the foliage of their darling abodes.”

CHRISTMAS CAROLS. – The word carol has come to us from Italy, and means “a song of joy.” Carol first denoted a song sang as an accompaniment to dancing, and was thence applied to a religious song used in celebration of Christmas. Carols at Christmas were early in use in the Christian Church. Tertullian says, “it was customary to place in the middle such as could sing, and call upon them to praise God in a hymn, either from Holy Writ, or of their own invention.” Religious songs or ballads in celebration of Christmas are still sung in many parts of England.

CHRISTMAS BOXES. – The custom of giving a small sum of money to servants and others on the day after Christmas, hence called Boxing-day, is doubtless founded on the custom of New Year’s gifts. Until recently it had increased to such an extent as to have become almost a national grievance. Tradesmen sent their journeymen and apprentices to levy this blackmail on their customers, and they, in turn, bestowed “boxes” on the servants of their customers. To the tradesman it was a means of increasing his Christmas bill; to the customer of lowering his servants’ wages. In 1836, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs issued a circular to the different embassies, requesting a discontinuance of the usual Christmas-boxes to the messengers of the foreign department and others, and from that time the practice has very much decreased.

ANCIENT CHRISTMAS CUSTOMS. – It was usual, amongst our ancestors, on the night of Christmas-eve, to light up candles on uncommon size, called Christmas candles, and to lay a log of wood upon the fire, called a yule log, or Christmas block, to illuminate the fire, and, as it were, to turn night into day. Stowe says, “That in the feast of Christmas, there was in the king’s house, wherever he lodged, a Lord of Misrule, or master of merry disports; and the like had ye in the house of every nobleman of honour, or good worship, were he spiritual or temporal.” Yule seems to have been originally a Pagan festival, observed in ancient times among the Romans, Saxons, and Goths, in commemoration of the turning of the year. The custom of decking churches and houses at Christmas with laurel, box, holly, or ivy, appears to have been copied from the Pagans.

THE ORIGIN OF CHRISTMAS. – The word Christmas is derived from Christ, and the Anglo-Saxon “Mas,” a holiday, or feast, and thus has come to signify a Christian feast, observed in memory of the birth of Our Saviour. The exact day of the nativity of Christ has long been a matter of dispute; but it is generally agreed that it could not have been on the 25th of December, for many reasons. It appears to be certain that the shepherds could not have been watching their flocks in the fields by night in the middle of the rainy season. Sir Isaac Newton accounts for it, by showing, that not only the feast of the Nativity, but most of the others, were originally fixed at cardinal points of the year, and that the first Christian calendars, having been arranged so by mathematicians at will, were afterwards adopted by the believers as they found them in the calendars, the object being to have a fixed time of commemoration.