Trish Chambers explains Christmas traditions and symbolism

caldecott-old-christmas-copyIn a program co-sponsored by the Historical Society of Riverton and the Riverton Free Library on November 17, Trish Chambers colorfully described many Victorian era Christmas traditions.

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Trish Chambers

Using illustrations by renowned British illustrator Randolph Caldecott from the charming volume of old English Christmas traditions by famed American author Washington Irving, Ms. Chambers brought to life what a Christmas holiday looked like, smelled like, tasted like, and sounded like.

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‘Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle’, from a Supplement to the Illustrated London News, Dec. 1848

Rosemary, holly, and ivy decorated the homes representing friendship, love, commitment, and togetherness. The greenery symbolized resiliency in the coldness and darkness of winter.

When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert from Germany, he brought the German tradition of the Christmas tree.

caldecott-christmas-feastBayberry candles lit the manor houses adding light to ward off the winter grey.  The celebration lasted for twelve days since guests traveled long distances to the manor houses in the countryside.  Food and drink were plentiful, lavish meals were served accompanied by music and dramatic performances. titlepageVillagers sang outside the manor houses to entertain the guests.  Children took an active part and were included in the celebrations.

See an online version of the 1886 edition of the entire Washington Irving classic here.  – Susan Dechnik

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