At the beginning of the 1800s, Christmas was hardly celebrated in England, but by the end of the century, the holiday had been transformed into one of the biggest celebrations of the year. This evolution happened so fast and came as a result of the rapid changes the country faced due to the effects that the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the Victorian Era had on society. Many Christmas traditions we know and love today can be attributed way back to Victorian England, which was when the idea of Christmas was revolutionised into what we know today.


Many festive activities and traditions were popularised by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, who was German. Upon moving to England, he wanted to embrace his childhood traditions by introducing the festivities to his family, which were then later picked up on by the public. 


Decorating a tree at Christmas time became popular during this era. The medieval tradition of using an evergreen continued, but decorations became more elaborate. The tree in the royal household was adorned with candles and small trinkets and uniformity and elegance were encouraged. Victoria and Albert are famously associated with the beginning of this tradition as an illustration of them and their children standing around a Christmas tree was printed in the newspaper in the 1940s which quickly inspired the nation to begin decorating their own trees.


Another festive tradition that was introduced during the 1800s was the giving and receiving of Christmas cards. In 1843, the first Christmas card was commissioned. Christmas cards were pricey, costing about one shilling each, so children were encouraged to design their own cards. As the industrialization of England continued, colour printing technology became more advanced, causing the cost of a Christmas card to drop. By the end of the century, Christmas cards became hugely popular and the industry took off. 


Many other Christmas traditions can be accredited to the Victorians. The famous festivity of kissing under the mistletoe was popularised by Victorian peasants and gift giving became more central to the festival during the 19th century. Charles Dickens’ novella, ‘A Christmas Carol’ is credited with spreading the values of christmas to a wider audience in England and the rest of the world. The messages of family, goodwill and generosity are all central notions associated with Christmas and are some of the main ideas present in the novella. 


Whilst Christmas was still celebrated pre 19th century, the Victorians are hugely responsible for the changes that the festival endured. They transformed the holiday into a time for family and generosity and caused Christmas to become the most celebrated annual holiday in England.