The Victorian era is considered one of romance (it is after all the era that gave us Jane Austen), ladies in ballgowns and gentlemen who rode horses and generally acted like noble perfect gentlemen. Although, unlike modem days where the romance expectations are flowers, chocolates and diamond engagement rings, the Victorians had plenty of strict and strange rules of courtship. But in the run up to Christmas, these are a few of the Christmas traditions that the Victorian people enjoyed – some have stood the test of time and others are downright bizarre!
During the Victorian era, the Industrial revolution had created an enormous amount of wealth for many families and allowed more people to spend time with the family on Christmas day when the factories would be closed. This allowed families to spend time together and play parlor games. Some of these games (such as charades and blind man’s buff) have stood the test of time and are still enjoyed today, but games such as snapdragon have not! Snapdragon involved throwing rum covered raisins into a bowl, setting them alight and people taking it in turns to eat them whilst they were still alight!
The introduction of the penny post in 1840 meant that a card could be posted to anywhere in the country for only a penny, which meant that Christmas cards soon became a popular part of Christmas. Victorian Christmas cards however were not like the ones that we know today! Some did bear the traditional images of flowers, but there were many bizarre and creepy cards such as children being chased by enormous wasps, a dead robin and Saint Nicholas himself capturing a terrified child in his sack! It didn’t stop at strange images there were even meat cards with actual bacon attached to them!
In this day and age, many people sign up for a gym membership in January – but in the Victorian era, a strange tradition began that is still going strong today. A 100-yard swim in the cold waters of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park on Christmas Day morning became so popular that even the playwright JM Barrie donated a prize cup. The event is now known as the Peter Pan swim and is only open to members of the Serpentine swimming club, the event still attracts many spectators on Christmas Day!