In 1644, Christmas was banned by Oliver Cromwell. Carols were forbidden and all festive get-togethers were deemed against the law. With the restoration of Charles II, Christmas was re-instated, albeit in a more subdued manner and by the Georgian period it was once again a very popular celebration.
So, how to make your Christmas an 18th Century wonder?
Firstly, traditional decorations included holly and evergreens. The decoration of homes was not just for the gentry: poor families also brought greenery indoors to decorate their homes, but not until Christmas Eve. It was considered unlucky to bring greenery into the house before then. By the late 18th century, kissing boughs and balls were also popular, usually made from holly, ivy, mistletoe and rosemary. These were often also decorated with spices, apples, oranges, candles or ribbons.
The tradition of a Christmas tree in the house was a German custom and apparently brought to Court in 1800 by Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. However it was not until the Victorian era that the British people adopted the tradition, after the Illustrated London News printed an engraving of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their family around their Christmas tree in 1848. So, if you’re going for an authentic 18th Century look then I’m afraid the Christmas tree will have to be put away.
As for food why not serve a roasted bubbly-jock? (Love the name, it can’t help but make you give a childish smile) A bubbly-jock is a turkey or to be precise, a turkey-cock, and it has been found on Scottish tables since the 17th century, and probably before. So food shouldn’t be a problem with winter vegetables to accompany your bubbly-jock you can’t go wrong. And to close the evening off you can even serve plum pudding.
In 1714, King George I was apparently served plum pudding as part of his first Christmas dinner as a newly crowned monarch, thus re-introducing it as a traditional part of Christmas dinner. Unfortunately there are no contemporary sources to confirm this, but it is a good story and led to his being nicknamed ‘the pudding king’.
Or if you prefer you can always serve Twelfth Cake, a version of present day Christmas cake, which was sliced and given to all members of the household and guests. It contained a dried bean and a dried pea. The person whose slice contained the bean was King for the night; a slice with a pea indicated the Queen. Even servants played along and if they won, they were recognized by everyone, including their masters as the evening’s King and Queen.
For presents you’re going have to steer away from technology and go down the more intimate hand crafted route but importantly don’t forget to make you Christmas box. The custom of giving a ‘Christmas box’ – a sum of money – to tradesmen and servants became commonplace, as did paying small amounts to the needy. The day after Christmas, St Stephen’s Day, was the day when people gave to charity and the gentry presented their servants and staff with their ‘Christmas Boxes’. This is why today St Stephen’s Day is called ‘Boxing Day’.
Finally for entertainment you can’t go wrong with some classic Christmas carols. No ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ I’m afraid but you can get by with carols written in the 18th Century including; ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’, ‘Silent Night’, ‘Joy to the World’, and of course ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’.
Hopefully you’ll all be busy planning your Jacobite Christmas but if you can please as always like, share, comment, tweet, re-blog and belt the carols out loud and clear.
All the best, K & D.