Penrhyn Castle: Victorian Christmas Traditions

Did you know that many of the Christmas traditions we observe today began during the Victorian era.

The Victorians brought about huge changes in the way we celebrate Christmas, rapidly transforming it into the festivity we recognise today; centred around feasting, celebration, and family values.

Penrhyn Castle would have been a hive of activity, preparing for Christmas, none more so than in the Vicrtorian Kitchens where teams of staff would be busy preparing for a family Christmas celebration.

Making Christmas decorations in the Victorian Kitchen at Penhryn Castle
Making Christmas decorations in the Victorian Kitchen
Making Christmas decorations in the Victorian Kitchen at Penhryn Castle

Oh, Christmas tree...

The once pagan tradition of using an evergreen fir to celebrate winter festivals was already part of Christmas tradition amongst the English aristocracy.

This tradition started to grow in popularity after 1840 when the Illustrated London News published a drawing of the royal family celebrating around a decorated Christmas tree, imported by Queen Victoria's German-born husband Prince Albert from his native Coburg.

Soon, every home in Britain had a tree bedecked with candles, sweets, fruit, homemade decorations and small gifts.

Christmas at Penrhyn Castle
Boy decorating Chritsmas tree
Christmas at Penrhyn Castle

Christmas gift giving also became commonplace during the Victorian era, a tradition that was previously reserved for New Year celebrations.

Sending handmade cards had been customary since medieval times, but innovations in design and the printing process led to a huge increase in their popularity. Cards were printed with the now traditional image of a family spending time together, celebrating Christmas around a fireplace, tree or dining table.

Hand made cards began to make way for commercially printed ones in the Victorian era.
Printed Victorian Christmas cards at Penrhyn Castle
Hand made cards began to make way for commercially printed ones in the Victorian era.

The term Boxing Day also started to be used around this time, so named because this was the day servants and the working classes opened their ‘boxes’ of gifts which they had collected from the rich and middle class.

Many other traditions we know and love also started or were resurrected during this period.These include Christmas crackers, elaborate decorations, parlour games and even the traditional turkey dinner itself.

Christmas in the kitchens at Penrhyn Castle
Christmas in the kitchens at Penrhyn Castle
Christmas in the kitchens at Penrhyn Castle

Although the pace may have slowed at Penrhyn these days, it still retains the magic of that Victorian Christmas. Indeed, it's easy to imagine the kitchens full of the noise, smells and sounds of Christmas as the staff prepared for a family celebration. 

Please check the website for opening times and any Christmas events we have this year as we spread a little Victorian Christmas cheer.