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Posts Tagged ‘Regency Christmas’

“Heigh ho! sing heigh ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.”
– William Shakespeare, As You Like It

Decorating one’s house with natural boughs has been a Christmas tradition since Celtic times. Boughs of holly with their bright red berries were especially coveted. (Read Mythology and the Folklore of Holly.) One understands how easily people in rural areas could obtain these bright green leaves, but what about those who lived in London? This image of a holly cart pulled by a donkey provides a solution.

Note that the customer purchases a small amount of boughs. Christmas decorations in the 19th century were modest to none compared to ours. In this 18th-century print of a coffee house or chocolate shop, one can see small leaves of holly placed in each window pane and a bough hanging from the center of the ceiling. (One cannot imagine that mistletoe would  be hung in a public setting.)

Bowles and Carver print, London. Circa 1775

In this image of a lavish family dinner by Cruikshank, not a single bough of holly decorates the room. Most likely a wreath had been hung on the front door or some boughs had been hung from the ceiling. With holly hard to obtain in metropolitan areas, one imagines that the spare use of decorations was as much from necessity as from tradition.

Image: Art.com

This image by Cruikshank of a family celebrating Christmas during early Victorian times  shows a few boughs inserted into the chandelier, a roaring fire, and the Christmas pudding about to be served to the hostess. This year, I have taken the Regency approach to decorating my house, emphasizing the season with just a few well placed decorations. And I love it.

Other Christmas Posts on this blog:

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Happy Christmas! The Christmas season in the early 1800s was a time of festive balls, dinner parties, and parlor games as described in Christmas Regency Style and a Jane Austen Christmas. While Christmas decorations in the form of garlands and mistletoe were put up on Christmas Eve and a yule log was cut and burned, the custom of ornamenting christmas trees, swapping Christmas cards, and singing Christmas carols did not become widespread until the Victorian era.

Click on the links below to learn how Christmas was actually celebrated during Jane Austen’s and the Prince Regent’s time.

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