Decking the Regency Halls
In the Regency era, there were no Christmas trees in the parlors of London. Christmas trees were a custom that wouldn’t catch on till Queen Victoria and Prince Albert imported the tradition from Germany. But that doesn’t mean there were no decorations for the holiday season–which began on Christmas Eve and continued till Twelfth Night (which coincides with Epiphany, January 6th).
It was considered unlucky to bring greenery into the house prior to Christmas Eve, but Regency folk used evergreens for that special day. The most popular decoration was a “kissing bough.” It was fasioned of ivy (to symbolize women), prickly holly (to represent men) and mistletoe (to give young men an excuse to claim a kiss!)
Kisses freely given? That’s another story!
Another Regency tradition was the Christmas candle, which was lit on Christmas Eve. It was expected to burn through Christmas Day. This may have been a nod to the older custom of a Yule log which provided heat during the 12 days of festival, but by the beginning of the 19th century, few fireplaces would accomodate such a monstrous-sized log!
I love the smell of a real tree but haven’t had one in years, because of the fire hazard. I wonder if we limited our celebration to the 12 days of Christmas I’d feel differently about it. We start running ourselves ragged over Christmas starting with Black Friday.
Is there something to be said for an abbreviated holiday season?