A potted history of christmas, from wreaths to crackers
Is there anywhere better than London at Christmas? This is the city that inspired Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’, after all. Just walk through Covent Garden and the whiff of mulled wine tickles your nozzle and the wonder of the magical lights put the Northern Light’s to shame. Of course you would be wearing at least 14 jumpers and coats whilst doing the walking because my lord, it’s got chilly hasn’t it?!
The origins of the great Christmas classic, the wreath
For thousands of years people around the world have enjoyed midwinter festivals. With the arrival of Christianity, pagan festivals mixed with Christmas celebrations. One of the leftovers from these pagan days is the custom of decking out houses and churches with evergreen plants like mistletoe, holly and ivy. Some believe that initially wreaths were hung on doors in Ancient Rome to represent victory.
In Christianity, the Christmas wreath was used to symbolise Christ. The circular shape, with no beginning or end, represents eternity or life never ending. The wreaths were typically decorated with four candles, three on the exterior and one in the middle. The middle candle was lit on Christmas Eve to symbolise the arrival of the Light of the World – Jesus. Most wreaths these days just symbolise a good looking door.
The wreath leactures
I love Christmas and I love wreaths. So this time of year I love a bit of light wreath-spotting. There are some beautiful wreaths out there making Wandsworth and the rest of London look simply to die for. When I walk Claude (more like she walks me) across the common I pick up bits and bobs to help my Mum with the lovely wreaths she makes. I recommend making your own. It’s lots of fun.
If you’re not much of a DIY-er, there are some lovely wreaths about. Like this beautiful example from The White Company
I’m also rather partial to this edible wreath from the lovely chaps at Rocket Gardens. Very cool.
Bah ‘actually not so’-humbug
No era in history has influenced the way in which we celebrate Christmas, quite as much as the Victorians. Before Victoria‘s reign started in 1837 nobody in Britain had heard of Santa Claus or Christmas Crackers. No Christmas cards were sent and most people did not even have holidays from work. The wealth generated by the industrial revolution of the Victorian era changed the face of Christmas forever. Praise the Victorians because Christmas really is my favourite holiday by miles. The even I managed to take a couple of days off!
Christmas Cards for one and all
The “Penny Post” was first introduced in Britain in 1840 by Rowland Hill. The idea was simple, a penny stamp paid for the postage of a letter or card to anywhere in Britain. This simple idea paved the way for sending the first Christmas cards.
Sir Henry Cole tested the water in 1843 by printing a thousand cards for sale in his art shop in London at one shilling each. The popularity of sending cards was helped along when in 1870 a halfpenny postage rate was introduced as a result of the efficiencies brought about by those new fangled railways.
Christmas crackers were invented by Tom Smith, a London sweet maker in 1846. The original idea was to wrap his sweets in a twist of fancy coloured paper. But this developed and sold much better when he added love notes, little sayings, paper hats, small toys.
However, one night, while he was sitting in front of his log fire, he became very interested by the sparks and cracks coming from the fire. Suddenly, he thought what a fun idea it would be, if his sweets and toys could be opened with a crack when their fancy wrappers were pulled in half. What would crackers be without a bang eh?!
The iconic tree
Queen Victoria’s German husband Prince Albert helped to make the Christmas tree as popular in Britain as they where in his native Germany, when he brought one to Windsor Castle in the 1840’s.
Three cheers to the Victorian’s
I think the Victorian’s deserve a big round of applause don’t you?
If your home isn’t already bedecked with cut flowers, you better get festively furnished and give us a go for £22 a pop!
Here’ the glorious arrangement we’re delivering from Monday 18th December