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How Scrooge Sparked Christmas & More Yuletide Origins

‘Twas a time before Christmas.

Unimaginable as it may seem, the holiday brought little more than a glad tiding or cup of good cheer. To unearth the origins of time-honored traditions held today requires a return to  Victorian Christmases.

. . . To precisely one in particular. . . that of Ebenezer Scrooge.

A little Christmas book.

Selling out in three days’ time, Charles Dicken’s “little Christmas book” became a classic straightaway. Of a myriad of Things You Might Not Know About A Christmas Carol, its message of giving fostered convictions in the rich and inspired the classes from merely observing the holiday to celebrating it.

Speaking of old Ebenezer. . . .

Bah humbug!

You know Dasher & Dancer & Prancer & Vixen. But do you know where these yuletide traditions originated? – Click to Tweet 

victoria_and_albert_christmas_treeTannenbaum

Prince Albert is to be accredited for popularising the Christmas tree. A beloved household tradition from his German homeland, the Tannenbaum stood in the Buckingham Palace every Christmastide.

In fact, each family member had a tree to call his own. Towering upon a table, gifts of splendor nestled underneath. While many of the packages contained luxurious articles such as a book of poetry by Alfred Lord Tennyson or jewellery, a fresh gingerbread man always accompanied the young royal’s new treasures.

 

Mistletoe

Where the custom kissing under the mistletoe originated remains quite a mystery. But the romantic symbolism has carried over many cultures. History.com sites how the Celtic Druids apportioned it medicinally to bring fertility, as they “came to view it as a sacred symbol of vivacity.”

Perhaps the closest explanation stems from Norse mythology. Revering the plant as a symbol of love, the goddess of love promised a kiss to anyone who passed beneath the leaves.

Such developed the tradition in Victorian England. Pairs caught under the mistletoe were to remove a berry for each kiss, not relinquishing until the plant was bare.

Read tales of yuletide traditions from the Victorian Era. – Click to Tweet 

The English Robin

More often than not, Victorian yuletide illustrations include a robin perched on Santa’s shoulder or nearby. Entertaining as folklore may be, the reason for it’s occurrence evolved from the resemblance of 18th century postmasters.

Dubbed with the moniker of “Robins” for their red-breasted coats, postmen delivered many Christmas packages during the holiday season. Great anticipation surrounded their visits. . . much like a visit from St. Nicholas.

How did your family Christmas tradition begin? Do tell!

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An Interview with Jane Austen

Gone are the days of corsets, of days spent picnicking the countryside, of men in possession of a good fortune who are in want of a wife. Much has changed since Sense and Sensibility was first put to paper. Yet hearts are still very much the same.

In light of a world waning in romance, Victorian Trading Co. sought an interview with Jane Austen on her birthday, December 16th. For none quite personifies Jane Austen like the lady herself.

 

VTC: As it is your 241st birthday, what guidance can you dispense in regard to aging gracefully?

JA: You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance give you pleasure.

I must say, if any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out.

VTC: How would you advise those who wish to lead a romantic life as you did?

JA: If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.

VTC: Is there anything to be done about a woman in love?

[Laughs] A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment. Indulge your imagination in every possible flight.

The mere habit of learning to love is the thing; and a teachableness of disposition in a young lady is a great blessing.

VTC: What is your comment on the predicament of the lack of Mr. Darcys?

JA: There are such beings in the world—perhaps one in a thousand—as the creature you and I should think perfection; where grace and spirit are united to worth, where the manners are equal to the heart and understanding; but such a person may not come in your way, or, if he does, he may not be the eldest son of a man of fortune, the near relation of your particular friend, and belonging to your own county.

Whether or not he arrives, let me leave you with this thought: Know your own happiness. Want for nothing but patience—or give it a more fascinating name: Call it hope.

VTC: How can one secure a gentleman such as he?

JA: There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.

 

To read more quotes see The Guardian’s Jane Austen in quotes: 30 tips for a successful life See just how successful you are by taking Buzzfeed’s quiz: Are You An Accomplished Woman? (According to Pride and Prejudice). Or perhaps you might even be inclined to peruse our Jane Austen gifts.

We’re curious. If you could ask Jane Austen one question, what would it be?

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In Fine Fashion: Symbolism of Victorian Jewelry

Do you know of the hidden gems embedded in Victorian jewelry? Once upon a time, pendants were much more than mere ornaments. They were insignia. Each design carried motifs and qualities with precious meaning, supposedly describing its owner.

Victorian ladies were what they wore, so to speak.

For example, a necklace with a holly design signified truth and instinct. An eye: protection. And so on and so forth. In order to fully appreciate the finery we wear, we’ve compiled a list of each emblem with its significance.

Of the earth

Symbol Meaning
 acorn Acorn Immortality
 27221_large_1 Chrysanthemum Love
 22305_large.jpg Clover Be Mine, Token of Affection
 26556_large.jpg Daisy Purity, Innocence
 holly.jpg Holly Truth, Instinct
 ivy.jpg Ivy Everlasting Love, Marriage, Faithfulness, Friendship
 29138_large.jpg Laurel Leaves Triumph
 11696_large.jpg Lily Innocence, Purity
 21840_large.jpg Mistletoe Nature, Magical, Eternity
 28894_large Oak Strength, Maturity
 20211_large.jpg Pearls Teardrops
 18409_large.jpg Rose Love, Hope, Joy
 24737_large.jpg Spider Wisdom, Hard Work, Prudence
 24400_large.jpg Tree Life, Growth
 28490_large.jpg Violet Faith

Of the sky

Symbol Meaning
 28051_large.jpg Angel Guidance, Strength
 bee.jpg Bee Organization, Efficiency, Community
 butterfly.jpg Butterfly The Soul
 24448_large.jpg Crescent or Moon Female Spirituality, Death & Rebirth
 26702_large.jpg Dove Peace
 28945_large Feather Obedience
 28840_large.jpg Flying Bird The Soul
 28733_large.jpg Owl Vigilance, Wisdom
 26477_large.jpg Star Spirit
26761_large.jpg Dragonfly Prosperity, Courage, Change

Of king and country

Symbol Meaning
 29387_large.jpg Bell Friendship Over Confrontation, Warding Off Evil Spirits
 buckle.jpg Buckle Protection
 cross.jpg Cross Religious
 27163_large.jpg Crown Sovereignty
 28066_large.jpg Dagger Honor & Justice
 22487_large.jpg Eye Protection
 27538_large.jpg Heart Love, Passion, Charity
 28957_large.jpg Key Guardian, Authority
27880_large.jpg Cupid Earthly Love

What does your jewelry say about you?

Christmas Traditions: Bûche de Noël

The Yule Log, or Bûche de Noël, is a French Christmas cake, the history of which stretches back before the medieval era. As families gathered to welcome the winter solstice, logs decorated with holly or ivy were burned to cleanse the air of the previous year’s events. The Yule log lived on, but because burning them in the hearth was not always practical or possible (especially during the reign of Napoleon when fireplaces were banned for health reasons), the sponge cake was born.

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Is a yule log one of your Christmas traditions? 

The Game of Whist

Whist was enormously popular in the Victorian era. A predecessor to Bridge, Whist once provided hours of after-dinner entertainment. Gathered around the table, friends and family would while away the evening with this simple card game.

Rules of Whist:

The game is played with a 52-card deck (ace high). Four players split into two partnerships.

28523_largeTo begin, the dealer gives each player one card at a time, face down, beginning with the player on his left, until all cards are dealt with the exception of one. Each player should have thirteen cards. The last card, or trump card, is turned face up in front of the dealer to establish the trump suit. On her turn, the dealer will add that card to her deck.

The player to the dealer’s left leads by playing any card face up. The next three players take turns, and must play a card of the leading suit if they have one. Only if a player has no cards of that suit may she play any card from her hand. 

The four cards on the table constitute a trick. The trick is won by the team member who played the highest card of the leading suit, unless a card of the trump suit was played, in which case the highest trump card wins. The winner of the trick places it to the side and leads the next trick.

The object of the game is to score points on any tricks in excess of six, for one point each. The first team to score seven tricks (after their initial six) wins.

Hearts are Trumps 1872 by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896

Recipe: Mulled Wine

Mulled wine originated in the 2nd century as a way to keep the Romans warm during cold winters. As the Roman empire spread across Europe, so did the popularity of mulled wine. Europeans would mix their wine with spices to promote health and avoid sickness and add herbs and flowers to make unpalatable wine taste better. Nowadays, the beverage is often associated with the holidays and is enjoyed across the world under a variety of names, including Glühwein in Germany and Glögg in Sweden. 

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Here’s our take on mulled wine:

  • One bottle red wine
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 8 cloves
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 3 strips orange zest
  • 3 strips lemon zest
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp. fresh or powdered ginger
  • Optional: 1/4 c. brandy

In a saucepan, bring all ingredients to a low simmer for at least 15 minutes (be sure not to boil or the alcohol will evaporate). Pour into mugs and enjoy!

Fern Hunts

You may wonder how the Victorians entertained themselves before the invention of radio and television. Why, fern hunting, of course!

Victorians were obsessed with ferns. Up until the nineteenth century, ferns were rare in England. To the Victorians, these plants, which date back over 360 million years, captured the mystery and majesty of another era. Naturalist Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward was the first to discover a method of reproducing the plants indoors, in glass terrariums called Wardian cases.

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Possessing one’s own fern collection quickly became a sought-after status symbol. Fern-hunting parties became popular among society hostesses, providing an opportunity for women to get outside…and to mingle with men!

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