Twinkling lights hung on fragrant boughs, laced with golden antiquities; garlands strung from the mantle, framing a glowing fire of crackling pinecones, the family Bible prominently displayed on a table, opened to the greatest story ever told. Walking from room to room, the heavenly scents of fir, pine, hemlock, sweet spices of cinnamon, cranberry, and apple fill the air. Windows are frosted and the walls faintly shudder with the howl of the snow-laden winds outside. Guests filter in and leave their calling cards at the foyer desk, each one a brightly decorated token of the season.
Names are crisply spelled out in fine script, surrounded by pictures and designs in bright, cheery colors. The mail basket is overflowing with cards lavishly printed with the lithographs of Currier & Ives and Louis Prang. A scrapbook in the parlor, another in the children’s playroom, announce with appropriately selected pages, that Christmas is here in all its spectrum and splendor.
When we celebrate Christmas with family and friends, we have the Victorians to thank for many of its joyful festivities and delightful customs. They revived old traditions, such as caroling, and invented new ones such as sending Christmas cards.
The Victorians also promoted church-going, gift-giving, and charity to the poor as essential parts of the holiday. They transformed the folk figures of Father Christmas and Santa Claus into symbols of holiday generosity, and they greatly popularized Germany’s traditional Christmas tree or Christbaum.
Most of all, the Victorians made Christmas a family celebration, with its primary focus on the Christ Child and children. A Victorian Christmas entailed the exchange of gifts between parents and children; attendance together at Church services; a multi-course family dinner; and visits with friends, relatives, and other families.
Christmas was certainly celebrated in this Victorian Mansion. Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum welcomes guests to enjoy the decor of a true Victorian Christmas. For hours and information please go to: www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.com. Those of us involved with the mansion are working towards complete restoration. Will you get involved?