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25
Nov

A Timeline of Christmas through the Victorian Era

   Posted by: craig    in History

Christmas was hardly celebrated in Britain, nor in the States, in the early 19th century. It only became popular mid-century which many attribute to Queen Victoria’s marriage to the German-born Prince Albert. In 1848 the Illustrated London News published a drawing of the royal family celebrating around a decorated Christmas tree according to the ways of Prince Albert’s childhood in Germany. Because of this, the German tradition of a candle-lit tree adorned with sweets, fruit, homemade decorations and small gifts quickly spread throughout Britain. This supplanted old traditions of gift-giving at New Years. Gift-giving also became more important during the Victorian era, morphing from small, homemade gifts being hung on the tree, to larger, shop-bought gifts being placed under the tree. At around the same time, the mailing of Christmas cards became a new tradition, one made possible by the industrialization of color printing and by the economies of the postal system such that postage only cost half a penny. A myriad of new practices and refinements grew from there. For example, the Victorians revived and popularized the singing of carols, putting old words to new tunes and forever associating them with Christmas. Also, in Victorian Britain it was established that Christmas was time for family reunions — and that’s when it was determined that a roasted turkey was the perfect size to serve such a family gathering, rather than roasted goose. And then there was Charles Dickens. While A Christmas Carol did not invent the Victorian Christmas, it certainly helped to spread the traditions and to focus the celebration of Christmas on the notions of happiness and peace, family togetherness, charity, and goodwill.
325 AD
  • Saint Nicholas (born sometime during the 3rd c. in the ancient Lycian seaport city of Patara) attends the first Council of Nicaea under the rule of Emperor Constantine the Great.
336 AD
  • Christmas first celebrated in Rome.
6th c.
  • Roman emperor Justinian I builds one of the first of many thousand churches dedicated to Saint Nicholas at Constantinople (now Istanbul).
8th c.
  • The Christmas tree tradition begins with Saint Boniface, who converted the druidic German people to Christianity.
1087
  • Italian sailors steal Saint Nicholas’ alleged remains from Myra and take them to Bari, Italy.
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