How Much Do You Know About Victorian Christmas Traditions?

HISTORY

Heather Cahill

6 Min Quiz

Image: Burak Karademir / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Queen Victoria was known for her ability to popularize many things. Christmas became one of these, as her traditions impacted the people of her era as well as all of us to come afterward. Under her reign, there were many firsts concerning Christmas. One example is the Christmas tree, which she and her husband Prince Albert brought to England from his homeland of Germany. But that's not all! Christmas cards became hugely popular during the era as mass production grew.

Without the Victorian traditions that have been passed on to us, our Christmases would be much different than the festive celebrations we enjoy today. Our dinners might be much blander, our gifts could be more expensive, and we might not know as many Christmas carols! The Victorians made things much more fun in many ways. We can also thank them for the significant role that our families play on the holiday. Many of us look forward to going home to spend the holidays with our nearest and dearest, which was something that the Victorians treasured as well.

So, think you know all about the Christmas cheer that the Victorians had? Let's see if you can jingle the winning bell on this quiz!

Today we enjoy our chocolate Advent calendars, but Victorians counted the days in their own way. How many candles were in an Advent wreath?

The Advent wreath is made up of four candles, each representing a theme. The themes are love, good fortune, peace and belief — all things that are very important during the Christmas season as well as in everyday life in Victorian times.

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Once known as "kisses," what traditional Christmas items were popularized at this time?

It wasn't a Victorian Christmas without the Christmas crackers! These were not the flaky baked crackers you're thinking of, though. Victorian crackers were candies wrapped in tissue paper, twisted at each end, with a small firecracker inside.

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It wasn't a true celebration without this crucial piece! Which item was hidden in the tree for good luck?

One thing that you may not have known about the Victorians and their Christmas traditions is that they loved to hide glass pickles in their trees. Can you guess why they would do this? The first child to find the pickle was given an extra present.

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Middle-class Victorians had more disposable income than those in past generations. What did they do with this extra money during the holidays?

Being a child in a middle-class Victorian family meant having a pretty great Christmas. Presents were more plentiful, and the demand for them went up as people earned more. One of the many popular gifts to give at the time was soap!

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It's not as widely used today, but the word "Christmasing" meant what?

Back in the Victorian days, "Christmasing" meant gathering or purchasing mistletoe and holly. Mistletoe, in particular, was a rare and expensive decoration to have, showing the status of the homeowner. In fact, it was difficult for sellers to find the plants in the first place.

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Queen Victoria's husband is credited with a few traditions surrounding the holiday. What became popular, thanks to Prince Albert?

Prince Albert, who was born in Germany, popularized the German idea of having a Christmas tree in England. He and Queen Victoria personally decorated their tree in the palace, something that became popular around the country and later around the world.

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What was a common time to open gifts in this time period?

After breakfast was a common time for Victorians to open their gifts with family. Gifts would be opened before the family headed off to church, another important part of the day.

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The first Sunday of Advent would mark the start of which tradition?

Many kids look forward to their candy-filled Advent calendars today, but it was much different in the past. The Victorians had Advent wreaths with four candles — with one candle lit on each Sunday of Advent before Christmas.

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Ads were just as important back then as they are now. Can you name the holiday accessory that was first advertised in 1853?

People decorated their trees before this, but commercially produced Christmas ornaments were first advertised in 1853. These ornaments, usually made of glass, were mass-produced as demand increased.

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The first artificial Victorian Christmas tree was made of what?

Today we have Christmas trees made of all types of materials, in many different styles and colors. In Victorian days, however, most artificial trees were made of goose feathers. This tradition came from Germany.

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Christmas carolers had a special name in the Victorian era. What was it?

"Waits" were groups of singers who sang Christmas songs, visiting house to house, especially on Christmas Eve. Special permission was required in advance, however, as unauthorized singers could be charged with begging.

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A goose is what part of the Victorian Christmas?

Meat was an important part of the Victorian Christmas dinner, and for many families, the centerpiece was a roasted goose. Other popular meat dishes included standing rib or beef, boar's head and oysters.

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When they weren't playing games, Victorians were reading. Which author's stories were often read on the holidays during this era?

Charles Dickens was an accomplished author who wrote many Christmas stories during the Victorian era. You'll surely recognize one of his most famous works: "A Christmas Carol," featuring Ebenezer Scrooge.

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This door-to-door event was first started by the Victorians. Do you know what it is called?

Christmas carolers were all about the same thing back then as they are today — spreading Christmas joy and cheer to all! TThe tradition merges two older practices — visiting from house to house while offering good cheer and singing traditional songs called carols.

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Can you name the food pictured here that was common to find on the table for Christmas dinner?

Along with a feast of goose, it was common for Victorians to enjoy some Christmas pudding. This pudding included beef suet, flour, eggs, dried fruits, candied peels and brandy. This pudding was boiled, then aged, then steamed before serving.

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It could be quite cold in England around Christmas time, so who was the wassail punch traditionally served to?

Carolers were admired and appreciated in the Victorian era, and they were often rewarded with delicious hot wassail punch. Some of the ingredients that went into it were apples, cider, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon sticks.

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The waits weren't the only ones to go door to door. Who else did this during the holidays?

The less fortunate of the time often visited homes around Christmas, hoping that wealthier families would share some extra food or other items. Such donations would help them to have a Christmas feast or celebration with their own families.

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Stories were popular in this time, but what genre really took over during Christmas?

Usually Christmas is filled with cheer and happiness, but the Victorians also enjoyed a little scare! It's a tradition that has carried into modern times as well. Just look at our many modern adaptations of "A Christmas Carol!"

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Boxing Day to us is a time of returning items and getting some of the best deals around. What happened on this day in the Victorian age?

Boxing Day was extra special for servants, as they were given gifts by their bosses. It was a day for them to kick back and relax without worrying about their duties and obligations. Sometimes the boxes included leftovers from Christmas dinner.

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Rich families ate expensive meats for Christmas dinner. What did poorer families eat?

Meat was an important part of the Victorian Christmas dinner, and oysters were an affordable option for the less fortunate. In fact, one Charles Dickens character states, "Poverty and oysters always seem to go together."

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When Christmas was first celebrated in Victorian times, how were the gifts presented?

Who needs ornaments when the Christmas tree is decorated with many hanging presents? Of course, hanging presents had to be small — they included such items as fruit, handmade gifts and nuts.

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Who is credited with the invention and popularization of the Christmas card?

The Victorian era was a time of innovation, and one such innovation was the Christmas card. Sir Henry Cole's first mass-produced Christmas card offers a glimpse into the time, showing a family as they enjoy their holiday. Images of charity are also featured. Written on it is "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you."

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Some traditions had unique names, and this one is no exception! Do you know what the word "pantomime" refers to?

If you didn't get enough entertainment from reading Christmas stories, a pantomime would have been a great event. Held in theaters, Christmas pantomimes featured music and gesturing performers, acting out stories.

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Meat was a luxury at this time. What type of meat did rich Victorian families eat for their holiday dinner?

Meats such as beef were quite expensive, so only the rich typically had them for Christmas dinner. In fact, beef was a status symbol to show guests that they were able to afford the luxuries of the time.

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What was placed during the holidays as a symbol of Christ?

The evergreen tree came to be a symbol of the trinity, being triangular, and it was a symbol of Christ. Germans were the first to bring Christmas trees into their homes, and the people of Victorian England followed suit.

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There are many important parts to Christmas, but what was one of the central themes of the Victorian holiday?

Family is one crucial part of Christmas for most of us today, but we have the Victorians to thank for making it this way. The family took part in many Christmas traditions, such as decorating the tree, exchanging gifts, attending church and feasting.

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What was a common way to address Santa in England at this time?

"Father Christmas" was commonly used to refer to the figure we know today as Santa Claus. In fact, many of the names you've heard for Santa Claus around the world are still in use today. The Victorians also called him St. Nicholas.

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The less fortunate often made stockings for the holidays and for giving gifts. What were they filled with?

Fruit was an important part of Christmas for the less fortunate. It was a great filler for their stockings, often paired with other little items such as nuts. Unfortunately, more elaborate gifts were out of reach for them, but they made the most of what they had.

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You might be surprised to find out that a winter sport wasn't the most popular to play at this time! Football (soccer) was played on which day in December?

The Victorians loved to spend their Christmas Day getting dirty in the game of football, or what Americans call soccer. If the Victorians weren't playing, they were watching and rooting on their favorite teams. Unfortunately, this tradition has been lost over time.

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Can you guess which country first popularized the indoor Christmas tree?

Germans loved to bring Christmas trees into their homes to decorate, although they looked a little different than our decorated trees today. Instead of putting ornaments on like we do today, the trees were often decorated with items like roses or fruit.

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Due to greater disposable income and innovations in machinery, what became popular in Europe in the Victorian era?

Mass production played a huge role in Victorian Christmas celebrations. Before this time, many people didn't have the disposable income to spend on items for Christmas, but once they did, there was much demand for toys and other holiday items.

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Which of the following is a Victorian parlor game?

In this age, games were a great way to pass the time, so it's no secret that the Victorians had lots of them to choose from. One parlor game was hoop and hide, in which people would hide and one person would seek, and those who were found got a kiss.

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What did you get if you were the first to find the glass pickle?

Getting yourself into a pickle was good on Christmas Day! If you found the pickle ornament hidden in the Christmas tree, you usually got a special privilege or good luck for the coming year. If you were in a wealthy family at this time, you might have even received an extra gift. Origins of this tradition are rather murky.

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Though it started in Victorian times, the meaning of this decoration hasn't changed much. What decoration shows that love is in the air during the holidays?

What was known as a kissing bough in Victorian days has evolved into our mistletoe tradition. A kissing bough was usually a round ball made from ash or twigs, with greens and other decorations inserted.

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Today, some of us never even take our trees down! When was the Victorian Christmas tree typically decorated?

This gives a new meaning to the story! Victorians didn't give themselves much time to fully prepare, but they must have had their gifts wrapped ahead of time. Then all they had to do was put the gifts on the tree as they decorated to get ready for the next day.

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