There's always a temptation to look fondly to The Good Old Days. Nowhere is that more evident than Christmas. Queen Victoria still reigns when programs are planned during the holiday season! Victorian Christmas programs are as popular as Tea Parties. Queen Victoria had the longest reign of any British Monarch (63 years, 7 months) spanning 1837 to early 1901. During that time most common Christmas customs either began or were revived. This includes Christmas carols, the decorated Christmas tree, Christmas cards, and Santa Claus.
Here are a variety of resources to consider when planning a Victorian Christmas.
As a storyteller, stories and poetry must come first:
- You may automatically think of A Christmas Carol, but it's both long and overly familiar. Charles Dickens wrote many Christmas stories, in the Victorian tradition of telling "scary ghost stories." Our modern song beginning "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" tells of what was common in Victorian days. A Christmas Carol began with The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton, an early version worth retelling or studying to see how the author revised his tale. Also look at his 11 other Christmas short stories and the novella, Cricket on the Hearth.
- Less well known are 2 poems called "A Christmas Carol." John Francis Barnett made this musical version by Samuel Taylor Coleridge available. G. K. Chesterton's poem just caught the last full year of Victorian Christmas in 1899.
- Clement Moore's poem, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas"or "The Night Before Christmas" was popular in Victorian days, but published in 1823.
- Other Christmas poetry of the period is included at Christmas Poems, although the Edgar Guest poem was created later. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote "A Christmas Prayer", "Christmas at Sea", and "A Christmas Sermon", but his much loved Childs Garden of Verses, although not specifically about Christmas, has many poems children of the period would hear at that time.
- Another non-Christmas poem surely told to Victorian children (from 1885 on) to caution good behavior was James Whitcomb Riley's "Little Orphant Annie" and it also partners well with "scary ghost stories."
- In The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter, published by Warne, a series of 6 drawings form The Rabbits' Christmas Party. It was published separately, but is currently out of print. Wordless stories are great to get your viewers to re-tell the story.
- Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus is the famous 1897 editorial. Perhaps it can spark a similar effort as someone might be write it today.
- Christmas Every Day by William Dean Howells is an entertaining story about what might happen if the holiday wasn't a special day.
- For stories on the sad side, try 2 well known stories by Hans Christian Andersen, The Fir Tree and The Little Match Girl (which actually takes place at New Year's Eve).
- There are many more, including The Other Wise Man, Christmas Storms and Sunshine,and The Burglar's Christmas or chapters from Oz author, L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus or Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.
Besides stories, poetry, and music, there are other places I must send you online. The trick has been to select the most inclusive:
- prowl thoroughly the site and especially the blog at Victorian Rituals
- Victorian Christmas crafts, decorating and more (but watch out for the modern ads)
- for an overview of Victorian Christmas (although they say the early 1900s) the children of the Saskatoon schools created a delightful peek into the past.