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Christmas (hi)story - The Victorian Christmas Tree

2021-12-06

Around 1841 the Christmas tree was introduced into Victorian society. In that year, Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victorian, erected and decorated a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle. He was following the German tradition that had become popular in the 18th century. Then in 1848 an illustration of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and some of their children standing around a Christmas tree was published in the Illustrated London News. This illustration, showing the royal family gathered round the tree at Windsor Castle, attracted a great deal of attention.

The practice had been popular amongst the upper classes for some time, having been introduced by Queen Charlotte in the 18th century, but this article helped spread the fashion to the rest of society. Queen Victoria was extremely popular, and people were fascinated by the royals and enjoyed copying their traditions for themselves, both in England and on the American East Coast. Therefore, it became quickly fashionable to put up a large tree indoors decorated with candles, ribbons, and fancy trinkets.

This picture of the royal children enjoying the season with their parents and grandmother was influential in promoting Christmas as a family occasion. By the end of the 1840s it had become the central festival of the Victorian calendar - a time for celebrating and strengthening family ties, for Christian charity, generous hospitality and goodwill to others.