Victorians—Deck The Halls

Ever walk through the woods and find that no matter where your thoughts were or what you may have been worrying about, all negativity flies away at the sudden intake of your breath when you notice the beauty that surrounds you?  Nature’s aesthetic beauty feeds the soul.  It doesn’t matter what the current season is, there is always beauty to be found in nature.

For many years the primary decorations used in England were the greenery collected from woodlands such as holly, ivy and mistletoe.

They were originally used by the druids in pagan rituals and traditions and later the Celts who we know had great appreciation for everything in the natural world and took their roles as nature’s caretakers very seriously. Eventually, the church absorbed the use of greenery as part of their own Christmas traditions.  By the time of Queen Victoria’s reign, people decorated their homes quite extensively.  Evergreen branches of holly, ivy, pine cones and flowers were tied to railings and hung over windows and doorways.  Wreaths were made of boughs of pine and pine cones and berries and dried fruit.  Boughs of other evergreens such as fir and spruce were used for decoration throughout the house.

Candles twinkled from the windows. Red ribbons were tied above pictures.  Almost every room was decorated. The Christmas carol Deck The Halls was originally an old Welsh New Year’s song,  “Nos Galan” (“New Year’s Eve”), with these humorous lyrics:

 Oh! how soft my fair one’s bosom,

fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la

Oh! how sweet the grove in blossom,

fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la

Oh! how blessed are the blisses,[instrumental flourish]

Words of love, and mutual kisses,

fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la

This of course got changed to the English lyrics celebrating Christmas traditions:                                         

Deck the hall with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
‘Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Don we now our gay apparel
Troll the ancient Christmas carol,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
See the blazing yule before us,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Follow me in merry measure,
While I tell of Christmas treasure,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Fast away the old year passes,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Sing we joyous all together,
Heedless of the wind and weather,
Fa la la la la la la la la.

 

The advent wreath was placed on the dining-room table. It had three pink candles and one purple candle to mark the four weeks before Christmas.   The pink candle was lit on the third week and symbolized joy.  The three purple candles symbolized, hope, peace and love.

What you can do to incorporate these Victorian traditions:

1. Bring the outdoors in by decorating your home with fresh evergreens, dried or fresh flowers, cinnamon sticks, pine cones and berries or use the well-made faux equivalent.

2. Make pomanders by inserting cloves into oranges.  http://www.marthastewart.com/273214/pomander-how-to

3. Make your own advent wreath using a coat hanger, floral wire and greenery or buy a ready made one.  These days the tradition is to add a large white candle in the middle to represent Christ.  It is a wonderful tradition to share with your children as you read a bible passage, sing a Christmas carol and light a candle each Sunday.

Recommended books:

Christ in Christmas: A Family Advent Celebration 

Creating Christmas Memories: Family Traditions For A Life Time

The Victorian Christmas

Victorian Christmas (Historic Communities)

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