Oh, come ye oh come ye to The Highfield House at Christmas time. The year is 1860 and our ancestors would have been busy preparing for this joyful festive period by spending time with their loved ones and savouring their seasonal Christmas traditions. Gather round as we share with you the humble beginnings of some yuletide customs, including those that would have been thoroughly enjoyed during a Victorian Christmas at The Highfield House.
The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree has been a long-standing German tradition since the 18th century and it was during Queen Victoria’s reign that her husband Prince Albert, who was German himself, decorated a large tree at Windsor Castle to reminisce of his childhood merrymaking. Victorians were notoriously very family orientated and hearteningly, the Christmas tree bedecking would have been a large household affair. Both mother, father and all of the children would have pitched in to adorn this giant evergreen with bright festive candles, cakes, sweets and ribbons. After all, The Highfield House tree had to be the best decorated in town.
The Handmade Cards and Gifts
Before the Victorian era, Christmas was completely unheard of but to the relief of children everywhere and during the popular Queen’s reign, the Victorians loved nothing more than to reward their children with treats and gifts. What started as a New Year tradition eventually moved to Christmas as the significance of this day began to grow and the rich presented their children with handmade toys whilst the poor would look to stockings more commonly filled with fruit and nuts. British civil servant and inventor Sir Henry Cole would also later print over 1000 Christmas cards for sale as wealthy families began sending out their own greeting cards every year. If you weren’t fortunate enough to afford your own printed cards at Christmas time, arts and crafts would have been a great shared activity at The Highfield House during this festive period.
The Christmas Dinner
After the Victorian family would have attended the local church service it was time for their Christmas dinner.
It was the main highlight of the day and a vast amount of food would have been served with northern England enjoying a staple of roast beef and the south a roast goose. As expected, lucky Queen Victoria had both beef and a swan or two on her table. Christmas dinner at The Highfield House would no doubt have been enjoyed in The Great Hall, with cheery decorations aplenty and all kinds of exotic food overflowing the extremely large dining table. The crème de la crème was a figgy pudding, of course, washed down with copious amounts of spicy mulled wine and the non-alcoholic version, Negus, served for the children.
The Carollers Sing
The tradition of door to door carolling comes from the term the “waits,” and this is an ancient English custom of going from house to house and singing in exchange for food. The Victorians loved their music and as Christmas dinner is complete for another year at The Highfield House, the gratified Victorian family would have retired to The Reception Hall for the evening to enjoy the forthcoming carol singers. Head of the household, father, nurses his Christmas nightcap and the whole family listen intently as the angelic voices drift sweetly in and around the huge hall to the chords of The First Noel.
We sincerely hope you have enjoyed our little trip back in time to a very Victorian Christmas at The Highfield House. From Andy, Lindsey and all of our team, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.