Knights of the Pain Table

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Medieval Life 104 – Part 6 – History of Christmas Through the Ages

Industrial Revolution

Part 6

The Industrial Revolution was a period in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation had a profound effect on socioeconomic and cultural conditions in Britain and subsequently spread throughout Europe and North America and eventually the world.     All thoughts in Britain during this time,  turned towards work and money and progress.

Charles Dickens chronicled these times of child labour, miserable working conditions and endless work weeks.     In this era, the people had not time to celebrate.    They were lucky if their employers gave them a half-day off at Christmas.

In Germany,   however,   Christmas tradition was thriving.     The Germans believed in keeping the spirit of Christmas alive inside in one’s heart, mind and spirit.     The Christmas season in Germany began on St. Andrew’s Night on November 30th and they celebrated till January 13th, the Octave of Epiphany.    Sixteen holidays were observed during this time.

In Germany the cities were brimming with Christkindlmarkets  (Christ Child Markets),  fairs,  parades and carollers.    The timeless carols  “O Tannebaum”  and “Silent Night”  both originated in Germany.

The German name for the Christ Child,   who was said to bring gifts to children in Germany,  Austria,  Switzerland and the Pennsylvania Dutch region on Christmas Eve.    Later the name embodied the Child’s spirit,  in angelic form who brought gifts in His place.    Over the years this name has evolved to Kris Kringle.

One Scandinavian custom was the Sheaf of Grain.    A sheaf of grain was hung on a pole on Christmas Eve or Day as a way of sharing the Christmas Spirit with the animals.

Victorian Christmas

In 1837,   Queen Victoria assumed the throne in Victorian England.    In 1840,  she married Prince Albert,  who was of German descent.    Prince Albert brought to England many of the Christmas traditions from his homeland.    Hence,  Christmas in the Royal Family became a time of family closeness, appreciation of children, and enjoyment of holiday decorations.

In 1841,  the first Christmas tree was introduced to Windsor Castle by Prince Albert of Saxony,  the husband of Queen Victoria.     The Royal celebration of Christmas was soon emulated throughout the homes in England.    The Victorian Christmas had begun.

The origin of Christmas tree goes back to the medieval German mystery plays.     One of the most popular mysteries was the paradise play,  representing the creation of Adam and Eve,  their sin and expulsion from paradise.     After the suppression of the mystery play in churches,  the paradise tree the only symbolic object of the play, found its way into the homes of the faithful.

The Victorian Christmas also involved kindness and charity and the idea of giving to others less fortunate.     Charles Dickens assisted in reviving Christmas with his publication of  “A Christmas Carol”  in 1843.    During the time the Christmas card was created.    And carols became legal again under Charles II.

In Victorian times the candles were placed in windows over the twelve days of Christmas as a sign to needy people that shelter and warmth could be found within.

The Victorian Christmas meal consisted of turkey, goose, or roast beef, mince pies, Yorkshire puddings,  wassail,  plum pudding and eggnog.

The custom of giving gifts on Christmas Day did not come about until the last few decades of the century.    It had been tradition to adhere to the old Roman traditions of waiting until New Year’s Day.

Christmas once again was fully re-established as a holiday and these traditions continued into the next century.

The End

Read   Part 1

Personal  Note: Today we often hear the concerns that we may be loosing the meaning of Christmas or that Christmas has become too commercialized.    After following the evolution of the celebration of Christmas,  it is amazing to see that these questions seem to have been part of Christmas from its early days.     Our concerns were voiced by our ancestors, at different times throughout our history.

Today we have the freedom to celebrate Christmas with as much festivity as we desire.    By riding through the centuries with Christmas,   it helps us find the way to balance the meaning of Christmas with the celebrations and traditions.     I hope you found this journey worthwhile.

Lady Sharon,
Scribe of the Knights of the Pain Table

Medieval Lesson    Christmas Celebrations in the Middle Ages
Medieval Life 101 – Christians and the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages
Medieval Life 102 – Judaism and Jewish Life in the Middle Ages
Medieval Life 103 – History of Hanukkah Part I of Jewish Festivals

Main Source:   The Everything Christmas Book


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2 Responses to “Medieval Life 104 – Part 6 – History of Christmas Through the Ages”

  1. Lady Sharon says:

    And a “HI” to you dear Jackie with gratitude.

    Lady Sharon