Christmas in the Regency Era
By the time of the late Georgian period, Christmas had become a popular celebration, although not in the overly commercial way it is celebrated today.
It was actually a whole season, which ran from December 6th, Saint Nicolas’s Day, through to Jan 6th, which was called Twelfth Night. It was more often celebrated in the country, and less often in the cities. It was very much about family get togethers, balls, and parties. Austen herself included Christmas celebrations in several of her novels, including Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park.
At the beginning of the season, on St. Nick’s day, presents were often exchanged, which marked the beginning of the season. Usually this was more for the children than the adults.
Food was a significant way to celebrate and like today, traditional foods were to be found on the table; venison, turkey and goose were popular, and even a boar’s head or pig’s head might be found on the table. Christmas puddings made with prunes, marchpane, (marzipan), gingerbread, and other sweet treats would be offered.
Holly and other greenery had significance, stemming from a tradition going way back to the pre-Christian times, of decorating the houses with holly to celebrate the rebirth of the sun. Kissing under the mistletoe was encouraged by the placement of kissing boughs, made from ivy, holly, mistletoe and rosemary.
Christmas trees as we have today were not part of the Christmas tradition until later on, so no tree would have graced the drawing room or entryway of Georgian homes, but a traditional Yule log on a blazing fire was certainly part of many Christmas decorations. I think I prefer the chocolate kind though!
Singing carols was not really a part of regency Christmases either – in fact, most of the carols we know today were not yet composed! But religious music would have been a part of services at church.
Well, on that note, please have a merry and safe Christmas season, with lots of treats, and hopefully, a stocking filled with regency romances to delight you over the holidays!
Love Kate x