The Victorian Christmas Tree

Around 1841 the Christmas tree was introduced into Victorian society. In that year, the German Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victorian, erected and decorated a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle. He was following the German tradition that had become popular in the 18th century. (Some of the first German settlers also brought this tradition to America with them.) Then in 1846 an illustration of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and some of their children standing around a Christmas tree was published in the Illustrated London News.

People liked to copy Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria was extremely popular, and like today, people were fascinated by the royals and enjoyed copying their traditions for themselves…both in England and on the American East Coast. Therefore, it very quickly became fashionable to put up a large tree indoors decorated with candles, ribbons, and fancy trinkets.

Victorian tree decorations

Some of the items that were popular to decorate with homemade ornaments including glass balls, bead decorations,lead ornaments depicting crosses and stars, paper cornucopias filled with fruit, nuts and popcorn, small sewn pouches containing tiny gifts,and other edible treats. Angles often topped the tree, and later as the English Empire grew, the English flag became the most popular tree topper.

By the 1870s Victorians began to purchase store-bought decorations. Many of those ornaments were manufactured in Germany, and you can still purchase them today in the German Christmas Markets.

Children decorate the Victorian Christmas tree

By the 1890s the tree became high art and was covered with glitter, tinsel and small toys. Today it would be considered “over-decorated.” Then by 1900 tree themes became popular and it wasn’t uncommon to see a ribbon tree, an Oriental tree or tree with a single color theme.

When Queen Victoria died in 1903, it seemed the world went into mourning and popularity of the fancy trees waned. Tabletop trees and feather trees became more popular then.

Make your own Victorian Christmas tree decorations

You can create Victorian-like ornaments yourself very easily.  Try these ideas:

  • String cranberries or popcorn to make garlands
  • Paint walnuts and pine cones with gold or silver paint and dip them into glitter. Attach a bright ribbon to hang them.
  • Create paper chains as garlands.
  • Curl doilies into paper cornucopias and fill them with nuts, dried fruits or hard candies.
  • Recycle your old Christmas cards. Cut out the image and attach a colorful ribbon from which to hang the images.
  • Bake cookies and hang them from the branches.

Not to put a damper on the festive holiday spirit, but Miss Meredith Sweetpea must throw in a warning at this time. Please DO NOT use candles on your Christmas tree. It is far to dangerous to have an open flame around your tree. Please use lights specifically designated for tree decorations.


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