Weird History
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Bizarre Victorian Holiday Traditions We Still Do But Never Questioned

December 22, 2020 10.9k views12 items

Have you ever wondered what Christmas was like during the Victorian era? The Victorians had many strange Christmas traditions that didn't carry over to modern times, such as making trees out of green goose feathers and playing parlor games involving children and fire. But aside from those few exceptions, it's surprisingly similar to Christmas today.

Christmas lost popularity after the Middle Ages and wasn't widely celebrated until the start of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837. Many Victorian Christmas traditions came from her husband Prince Albert, who grew up in Germany and brought many of those traditions to England, which eventually made their way to America. The Victorians were obsessed with Christmas, so you can thank them for many of the holiday traditions still practiced today.

  • Sending Christmas Cards

    At the start of the 19th century, colored printing became more commonplace. Little by little, printed goods became more accessible as machinery advanced. The first holiday card was created by artist Henry Cole in 1843, and since then, holiday cards have remained a tradition. 

    Although we still have holiday cards, they're a bit different today than they were back then. The Victorians were all about entertaining their guests, and holiday cards were no different. Many people during this era would compete for the weirdest card to shock their guests and make them laugh. The cards would contain bizarre imagery and silly riddles. Frogs seemed to be a popular holiday motif during the 19th century, which sadly hasn't carried over to modern holiday celebrations.  

  • Searching For A Glass Pickle In The Tree

    The Christmas pickle is yet another holiday tradition that Prince Albert brought over from Germany. The idea of the game is that a glass pickle is hidden in a Christmas tree, and whoever finds it first gets good fortune in the year to come. Some also say the person who finds the pickle receives a special gift on Christmas morning. 

    To this day, you'll find a glass pickle ornament in just about any Christmas shop, and many families still play this game during the holidays.

  • Decking The Halls And Hanging Stockings
    Photo: F. J. Boston / Library of Congress / Public domain

    Decking The Halls And Hanging Stockings

    Yuletide was popular during medieval times but was absent at the start of the 19th century until Queen Victoria and Prince Albert brought the idea of decking the halls with boughs of holly back into mainstream culture. Once again, people covered their homes in evergreen boughs, wreaths, twinkling candles, and more

    Victorian newspapers and publications released detailed guides on decorating the home during the holidays. It became a staple of elegance to decorate beautifully during the winter months.

    Stockings also became popular thanks to the royal family. Children would hang theirs by the fireplace for Santa on Christmas Eve, hoping to wake up with it full of toys and treats in the morning. 

  • Putting Oranges In Christmas Stockings

    Although it was a Victorian tradition to give toys to good little girls and boys on Christmas, many families couldn't afford toys. In this era in history, the wealth gap was huge, with a majority of families struggling to get by. In England, having any type of citrus fruit would be considered a rarity and a treat. It became a tradition to give an orange to each child on Christmas. If your family practices this tradition, they possibly got it from their parents, passed directly from the Victorian era itself. It's a great reminder to appreciate the little things, even a juicy orange at the bottom of your stocking! It also symbolizes the sentiment of generosity and sharing during the holiday season, as oranges are easily broken up into wedges to be shared.

    Some Victorians also created pomander balls with oranges to celebrate the holidays. These oranges were studded with cloves stuck into the peel of the fruit, sometimes in shapes and designs. The oranges would create a lovely scent when combined with cloves and were used as centerpieces or added to the Christmas tree. During this time, however, spices were very expensive and luxurious, so pomander balls were a tradition practiced only by the wealthy.