A Regency Christmas



When most people think of Christmas in England in the 1800s they imagine Yule logs and kissing boughs, wrapped packages and festive greenery decking the halls. The problem is that’s a Victorian Christmas, straight out of Dickens.

In Regency England, the early 1800s, Christmas was celebrated quietly. The old traditions, which were revived by the Victorians, were considered garish and backward by Regency standards. There was very little seasonal decorating of the home. No Yule logs or Christmas trees—not even mistletoe, which was considered very old-fashioned by many. They did have traditional Christmas foods, such as pudding and wassail, and a Christmas fire, and Queen Charlotte did introduce the Christmas tree to England during the Regency, although it didn’t gain popularity until the Victorian age. Christmas was a school holiday, and the celebrations centered more on having the family together. Charity for the poor was often part of an upper class family’s Christmas observance.

Christmas, or Christmastide as it was called, lasted for twelve days, from Christmas Eve to Twelfth Night. Gifts were usually exchanged at the end of the holiday, on Epiphany, January 6. Twelfth Night came the closest to our idea of a Christmas celebration. Parties were held with games, and mummers, or actors, would put on a show.

In my most recent Regency romance, Love’s Surrender, the heroes ply the heroine with traditional Christmas gifts as they try to seduce her. She admits that she wishes Christmas were celebrated the old-fashioned way, and so they bring her gifts of rosemary and bay and ivy and mistletoe, and they give her a Christmas candle. Christmas candles were lit on Christmas day and were kept burning through Epiphany.

My mother always leaves her Christmas tree up through Epiphany, a throwback I suppose to the old twelve-day celebration. What about your family? Do you have a Christmas, or a Christmastide?

Samantha Kane: author, Mac junkie, newbie photographer, mother of three, and serial procrastinator.

I live in North Carolina with my husband of fifteen years and three children, two boys and one girl. I spent seven years as a high school history teacher before becoming a full time writer and mom. I also have a Master’s degree in American History.
Buy link for Love’s Surrender (available at Ellora’s Cave on Dec.7 2011) : http://www.jasminejade.com/p-9681-loves-surrender.aspx
Excerpt link: http://www.jasminejade.com/productspecs/9781419937460.htm

Samantha will be giving away one ebook of her latest in the Brothers In Arms series, Love’s Surrender. Just leave a comment to be entered into the draw. Winners will be announced on Christmas Day.

The BONUS BUMPER PRIZE QUESTION (don’t answer this yet – write them down and I’ll ask you to email them in on Christmas Eve.)

19. Which river did George Washington cross on Christmas night in 1776 in the American Revolutionary War?

17 Responses

  1. Mmm, I think the Victorians had more fun! 😀

    I have to admit, it made me smile to see your post go up the same day as this one: http://www.mrsdarcyvsthealiens.com/wiki/index.php?title=Regency_Christmas

  2. Love it! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. We sort of have a Christmas month…or two or three. 🙂 One year the tree was still up at Easter and the kids put Easter eggs on it. Great post! Back when I was a kid (that was a while back) we didn’t have a tree. Each of us received one or two gifts. Christmas was all about the religious aspects. And I’m not so sure that was a bad thing.

    Merry Christmas. Don’t put me in your drawing as I have ALL you books (except the new one!)

  4. We still keep everything up until twefth Night – has to be done!

  5. My dad has a yearly rant about people putting their Christmas trees up in November and taking them down on Boxing Day. He insists they should not go up until Christmas Eve (although for the sake of practicality that usually means the nearest weekend to Christmas), and MUST come down on Twelfth Night. He’s not at all superstitious usually, but woe betide us if he finds a stray bit of tinsel come January the 7th!

    Paige x

  6. Very interesting! It’s so fun to see where our traditions come from and how they get warped with time 🙂

    smaccall AT comcast.net

  7. Our tree goes up on Christmas Eve and is taken down on Twelfth Night. Though I must admit that I feel more at home with holly, ivy and mistletoe.

    This is a very nice post. I think it’s good to be reminded that our customs change and adapt over the centuries.

    Io Saturnalia! My husband cooks on Christmas Day.

  8. Sometimes the tree goes up early, sometimes late, and the same goes for taking it down. It all depends on when I have the time! With three small kids and a career, it’s often easier for me to take it down over the New Year holiday. But I always feel guilty when I do. 🙂

    Elin~ My husband always cooks. It’s better for his health. lol

  9. When I was a child and we were having Christmas at home in whichever house Her Majesty’s Grey Funnel Airline had allocated at the time, we never had any Christmas decorations up until Christmas Day. We went to bed, warned that all that we would find in our stockings would be bits of coal if we so much as stirred before nine o’clock on Christmas morning.

    The only Christmassy thing was hanging up stockings before we went to bed – four of my father’s ginormous white woolly flying socks! When we were allowed downstairs on Christmas morning the house was transformed, the tree was up, the decorations were up and my dear Papa made the most fabulous paper sculpture pictures and amazing angel mobiles! I remember one with the three ships, and another with angels playing various instruments and another with Santa and his sleigh, and more angels! The parents must have stayed up till the wee small hours getting it ready! Mother always said it was worth it to see our faces on Christmas Morning! Twelfth Night was the day Christmas was over and on 6th January they came down – and we spent the next three weeks vacuuming up pine needles! And the tree absolutely had to be a Norway Spruce!

  10. In our house, Christmas is a day of feasting & relaxing. I’m usually pretty insistent on getting decorations down on 6th January (though I’ll usually call it Epiphany rather than Twelfth Night), my parents used to tell us it was bad luck to leave any decorations up after then.

    I’ve always put the tree & decs up mid-way through Advent (this year we did it yesterday), but the prezzies don’t go under the tree until Christmas Eve… which I think came from my parents minimising the amount of time they were there to tempt us when we were children, and caused a few arguments when I was first living with my now-husband (until he came round to my point of view 😉

    • Presents don’t go under the tree until Christmas Eve after the kiddies are in bed. The surprise and wonder on their faces is worth the months of hiding presents! My husband’s family is from Austria, and their tradition is to open all their gifts on Christmas Eve, so we had a few tense moments our first Christmas together. lol But, especially after we had children, he came around to my way of thinking, too. 🙂

  11. Thanks for your comments, everyone!

  12. We usually leave the tree as long as it won’t shed too much. We just love the scent and the feeling of it. Sometimes we leave it until the end of January. I know it’s weird, but we love this way. 🙂

  13. I just gave a talk last week on the banning of Christmas during the Cromwell days.. so bits of this reminded m e of that but at the same tie it was good to see that folks had gotten well over that. It was more complex than just Ollie not being jolly.. Christmas, with it’s Catholic ‘mass” in the name, had gotten more like Mardi Gras than anything so calling Dec 25 just any other day kinda made some sense.


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