Regency Christmas Trees

When we think of a historical Christmas, most of us picture a Charles Dickens Christmas complete with a goose or turkey and a Christmas tree, but the English haven’t always had Christmas trees.

Early on, they decorated yew trees with small gifts or candy. But this tradition was not wide-spread until about the 1840’s. Queen Victoria ‘s husband, Prince Albert, decorated the first Christmas tree in Windsor Castle about 1841, according to some sources. Albert was from Germany, a place where they’d long used Christmas trees. He decorated a tree using candles, candies, and paper chains. The custom, although not entirely new, spread across England, and before long all of the English had Christmas trees just like the queen’s. And shortly thereafter, so did the Americans.

Over time, people started to use more elaborate decorations on their trees, including gingerbread men, marzipan candies, hard candies, cookies, fruit, cotton-batting Santas, paper fans, tin soldiers, whistles, wind-up toys, pine cones, dried fruits, nuts, berries, and trinkets of all kinds. They often hung cornucopias filled with sweets, fruit, nuts and popcorn on their trees. Small homemade gifts such as tiny hand-stitched dolls or children’s mittens were also popular. Beautiful angels were the tree toppers of choice, and some families set up a Nativity scene under the tree using moss for grass and mirrors for ponds.

By around 1860, people started buying German ornaments including glass icicles and hand-blown glass globes called “kugels” which evolved into our modern-day Christmas balls. Here is a picture to the right of a kugel.  Isn’t it gorgeous? They also decorated with embossed silver and gold cardboard ornaments in many shapes called “Dresdens” like the one pictured to the left. Decorating a Victorian tree today would be pretty simple without investing a great deal of money. Here are a few things you could do to get that old-fashioned, Victorian effect.

1.String popcorn and cranberries to make a garland. My children love to help do this.

2.Shape small paper doilies into cornucopias and fill with candy.

3.Recycle old Christmas cards. Cut out shapes you like and attach them to the tree with ribbons to make mock Dresdens.

4.Make or buy small cookies to hang on the tree. You can decorate them with glitter if you like. Hairspray works great as a preservative.

5.Fill small mesh bags with colorful candy and tie them with ribbon.

6.Spray nuts in the shell with gold paint and glue a slender cord to them so they’ll hang on the tree.

7. Use electric lights in the shape of candles — some of them even flicker.

8. Decorate the tree with small toys. I love cherubs, another Victorian favorite.

9. Decorative tassels look beautiful on a tree.

10. Use some wide ribbon–Victorians preferred velvet–and shape it into pretty bows or swirls.

11. Fold wrapping paper in the shape of fans and put them on the tree. Kids love to make fans.

12. Add anything made of lace.

Do you have any favorite old family customs you do for Christmas? Please let me know in the comment section.

Research source: 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *