Monday, December 15, 2008

A Regency Christmas

God bless the master of this house
The mistress also,
And all the little children
That round the table go.

Old English Christmas rhyme.

Just for fun, I thought I would take you back in time for a glimpse at Christmas in Regency England. These notes are taken from Victorie Count De Soligny LETTERS ON ENGLAND and represent Christmas in London in 1817.

The Count tells us that the arrival of Christmas day is announced by sprigs of evergreens such as laurel, bay, ilex, holly all over the house. Holly is stuck in the windows and over the mantelpieces, and wreaths of them hung against the walls.

And in the kitchen, or the servants' hall, a large bunch of mistletoe is suspended from the ceiling, underneath which the maidens are liable to be kissed, if they are caught by the male part of the household. (At our house, we hang mistletoe in our hallway, and there is much kissing as people enter the house.)

Parties and visiting occurred among in every class of life. On Christmas day gatherings are chiefly confined to the houses of the heads of families, where all the junior and collateral branches are invited, and, occasionally, a few intimate friends, are called upon to join the party.

Christmas dinner always includes s an enormous piece of roasted beef at the bottom of the table in the first course, an almost equally enormous plum-pudding in the centre in the last course, and a quantity of a certain kind of pastry called mince pies. The latter of these dishes, the mince pies, are never introduced at an English dinner except at this particular period.

After dinner the younger members of the family are admitted into the drawing-room. The elder portion of the company converse, or play at cards, or sit still and look on. The youthful play, or sing, or make up a little dance to the piano; and the children join in such games and sports as lead to comic results; such as forfeits, blind-man's buff, hunt the slipper, the game of the goose, snap dragon, or push pin, and dancing,.—making as much noise, and acting and talking as much nonsense, as they please.

The party breaks up at a rather early hour, on account of the children who are present, and who on this occasion are permitted to remain till the rest of the company retire.

There were a great many more traditions at Christmas, but these were the things that stood out for a Frenchman visiting London during the Regency.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, or an enjoyable holiday season, and wish you all the best for the New Year.


  1. What a wonderful post, Michele! Imagining Regency England is so much fun...thank you for giving us a peek filled with such vibrant detail. If I had a time machine, this is where (and when) I would head. Merry Christmas!

  2. Interesting to take a look back, Michele! Thanks for sharing this glimpse with us.

  3. Hi Michele!
    Thanks for the interesting look at a Regency Christmas.
    Enormous roast beef? Too bad nobody has an adequate oven for such things anymore. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is a great favorite in my house, but I don't make it very often. Hmmm, this gives me an idea for Christmas dinner....

  4. You know what struck me as I read?

    Rich or poor, high born or low, Christmas is still a time for gathering and feasting and playing. There's turkey on the table instead of roast beef, the misletoe (if there is any) is plastic, and the children are more likely to be hooked up to Wii than to play tiddlywinks, but the spirt of the day is the same.

    It makes me feel good to remember that.

  5. Ooh! I love a Regency Christmas!! Thanks for this one, Michele!

    I have been so fortunate as to write the first two Darcys' Christmases in my series. Each one was a bit different, with varied guests and so on. But I loved learning the customs and describing the fun.

    And, Mary Margret, you are so correct! If done well, Christmas day is still about family, feasting, and good time! My favorite time of the whole year.

  6. Another informative blog, Michele. Being an Anglophile myself, I love to hear about these things. Thanks for sharing with us.

  7. Thanks for this Michelle, now I have to go get my A&E/BBC version of Pride and Prejudice out for another viewing. I so love Regency England...not to mention Colin Firth. Yum.

    Robin :)

  8. I have nominated this blog for an award. Please check out the post at

    Thanks to these wonderful ladies for their enjoyably delicious books. Keep them coming.

  9. Great post Michele--informative as always!

  10. Thanks everyone for dropping in, hope the yule log warmed your toes for a while. It is always hard to limit the detail so people don't nod off.

    Marie Margaret, you did hit my sentiments exactly, the important parts of the Christmas celebration actually haven't changed all that much.

    Cheryl, we too love roast beef at our house, and I am happy to say I have mastered the art of Yorkshire puds. The first Yorkshire Pudding was made by and angel. And that’s why:
    It melts in the mouth like the snow in the sunshine.
    As light as a maiden’s kiss.
    As soft as the fluff on the breast of the dove……..

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.