To a large extent, staying in the Regency House Hotel is like stepping back in time, as the building has lived through the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian eras prior to the last century. Amongst the most charming hotels near Covent Garden on Gower Street in London, one can almost feel the history in the rooms and in the very walls of the hotel. What better place to spend time at Christmas, to hark back to the past and all a Victorian Christmas had to offer?
Before the Victorian era, Christmas was hardly celebrated. So many of our current Christmas customs were born in London in the Victorian era, and there is nothing quite like a Victorian Christmas. Here are just a few Christmas traditions we can thank the Victorians for...
The Christmas tree
This was a German tradition brought to London with Queen Victoria’s marriage to the German Prince Albert. In 1848, the Illustrated London News published a drawing of the royal family gathered around a decorated pine tree, which was a German tradition. It was not long before the public followed suit. Trees at this time were decorated with candles, fruit, sweets, small gifts and homemade decorations. Ornaments began to be commercially manufactured in 1870.
This English tradition saw strolling singers selling sheet music and stopping at homes, hoping to be invited in from the cold for a warm drink. Experience an atmospheric recital of Christmas carol classics ring out across Trafalgar square, minutes from your hotels near Oxford Street, with 50 carol groups singing from 7th Dec – 23rd Dec for the perfect countdown to Christmas!
The first Christmas card was commissioned in 1843. Many children made their own cards and within forty years the giving of festive cards was a lucrative business.
A British confectioner was inspired by Parisian bonbons, and devised the Victorian Christmas cracker which is still a symbol of Christmas today.
Prior to the Victorian era, gifts were exchanged not at Christmas but at New Year instead. They symbolised prosperity and happiness. Initially, Christmas gifts were hung from the tree and were usually nuts, fruits, sweets, handmade items and small trinkets. As Christmas became more commercial, gifts became bigger and they were placed under the tree. Charity was also an important part of Christmas giving.
Mistletoe has pagan origins, and was not allowed in churches. Its tradition dates back to its harvest by Druid priests and its use as a tool of truce by Norse warriors. The Victorians hung mistletoe and if one met another under it they could claim a kiss. The number of kisses allowed was determined by the number of berries present.
So many foods associated with Christmas came to be so thanks to the Victorians: mince pies, roast turkey, and fruit puddings. The feast was a perfect way to gather family together, and to encapsulate the spirit of giving, peace, and goodwill. Experience festive menu at some of the London's best restaurants in Covent Garden surrounding Regency House Hotel.
Christmas in London is a magical time, not least because it is a city so associated with Christmases of the past. Any old movie set in the past will almost exclusively depict Victorian England. Grasp the atmosphere of the season and choose to stay in historic hotels near Soho in London; there is none more charming or more welcoming than The Regency House Hotel on Gower Street.