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Add Victorian Holiday Traditions to Your Holiday Celebrations

Updated: Feb 12

Victorian holiday traditions still play a role in many Christmas and holiday celebrations in the US and the UK. These traditions involve putting up an evergreen tree, sending Christmas cards, giving gifts like Christmas crackers or handmade goods, and adding Victorian Christmas recipes to the holiday menu.

Sending Christmas or Holiday Cards

The tradition of sending Christmas cards during the holidays became a tradition when the Industrial revolution began. The advances in printing technology made it possible for everyone to buy and send out Christmas cards.

Photo Source: Public Domain Pictures Karen Arnold

The first Christmas card in the US was created by Louis Prang. He owned a print shop in 1875 located in Boston. The first Christmas card had a picture of a flower and read Merry Christmas. It was a very simple design.

Christmas cards use grew in the 1800's and it became a popular art form. Many consumers collected Christmas cards for the artwork. By 1881 Louis Prang had printed over 5 million Christmas cards.

Queen Victoria's family gave Christmas cards to each other and encouraged their children to design their own cards. Charles Dickens books created many of the holiday traditions that we use to celebrate the holidays today.

Christmas Crackers

Photo Source: Public Domain Image

In the UK the trend of giving Christmas crackers as gifts began with a baker named Tom Smith. Tom took a trip to France. He liked the sweets packaged in tissue paper and thought it made an excellent gift to give on the holidays. He wanted to find a special product to drive sales at his bakery.

He created a package that could be filled with sweets, trinkets, or toys and popped when opened. His company still is one of the leading manufacturers for Christmas crackers. Today Christmas crackers are filled with candy, toys, cosmetics, food, jewelry, and a wide assortment of treats.

Crackers are made with a round cylinder tubes made of cardboard and the gifts packed into the tubes. The ends are closed and the tube wrapped in light holiday paper that tears easily. Many consumer use kits and assemble them according to directions. Some companies sell crackers already assembled and you can order them for parties or gifts.

Companies that make crackers are Christmas Crackers, The Little Cracker Company, Sur La Table, Oriental Trading, Esty, and Amazon.

Photo Source: Public Domain Image

Buying and Decorating Christmas Trees

People in Europe used fir trees for the Winter Solstice. They decorated trees with berries, pinecones, and natural ornaments. This tradition was called Yule.

In 1901 the first Christmas Tree Farm in Norway planted 25,000 spruce trees. President Roosevelt started a Christmas tree farm in 1930 on his Hyde Park Estate.

Woolworth imported over $25 million dollar's worth of Christmas ornaments and lights to meet the growing demand from consumers. Electric lights were developed in the 1800's and during the Industrial Revolution they made it possible for everyone to afford lights for holiday trees and in their homes.

Decorating Christmas trees become popular, and trees were decorated with candles, candy, and ornaments. In the late 1890s America had trees that extended from the floor to the ceiling. Early 20th century Americans decorated the trees with homemade ornaments, nuts, popcorn, berries and greens.

Later consumers decorated their trees with glass bulbs, wooden ornaments, and metal, and other sustainable materials. Today many consumers decorate their trees with sustainable ornaments and use real trees because it is better for their health and the environment.

Christmas and Holiday Dinners

Source: Wix Media

Victorian holiday dinners usually served a roasted turkey or bird like goose or duck. The food was very rich and usually accompanied by potatoes, vegetables, soup or salad, appetizers and dessert.

The very first course was often soup and after that the main course was served. The roasted bird was served with potatoes, vegetables, salads, olives. nuts, crackers, and spreads. The variety of desserts served were plum pudding, mince meat pies, Christmas Cake, bon bons, pudding, ice cream, and coffee.

Modern Day Victorian Holiday Recipes

These recipes have been changed to make them easier to make. Often Victorian meals have a fish course, so the shrimp recipe is included. This meal can be served during most holidays and can be used during other times of the year.

Spicy Shrimp Cocktail

Photo Source: Flicker/Jefferey W

1 or 2 tablespoons of lime or lemon juice

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound of large, cooked shrimp chilled

1 bottle or container of cocktail sauce


Defrost the shrimp if frozen put in a bowl and sprinkle on lemon or lime juice. Sprinkle chili powder and black pepper evenly on shrimp and arrange on a plate for serving. Put in refrigerator to chill and serve with cocktail sauce. Serves 2 to 4 people.

Brown Windsor Soup

Photo Source: Wix Media

This soup was an appetizer or recipe used by British families. It was claimed to be very popular in Victorian times. Queen Victoria was said to serve this soup at dinner parties or on banquets menus. This fact is disputed by historians in the UK and BBC that say Brown Windsor Soup never was served on wealthy British menus.

Records show the soup was sold in cafes in England in the 1920's. It was a canned soup sold in the 1940s. It is a simple vegetable beef soup that can be served at a holiday meal before the main entree. Adding paprika and red wine lightens the color of the broth.

You will need a cutting board, knife, medium saucepan, strainer, bowl, garlic press, colander, wooden spoon, measuring spoons, and measuring cup.


2 tablespoons avocado oil

3 carrots diced

2 stalks of celery diced

1/2 white onion diced and peeled

3/4 to one pound beef chuck eye steak diced into small pieces

4 fresh garlic cloves minced

1 tablespoon minced parsley

1 tablespoon chives

2 cups of beef broth

2 teaspoons paprika

1/3 cup red wine


Wash the vegetables in a bowl or container with warm water. Soak about five minutes and drain. In a medium saucepan add the avocado oil .Chop the carrots into bite size pieces, and the celery. Peel the onion discard peel and dice. Defrost the beef and cut into small cubes. Heat the oil over medium heat and add the carrots, celery, onion, and beef. Wash off cutting board if you only use one with warm water and soup and rinse well.

Mince the garlic using a garlic press add to the vegetables. Chop the parsley add to mixture and remove leaves from fresh chive. Sauté these ingredients about 5

minutes stir.

Add two cups of beef broth, 2 teaspoons of paprika, and 1/3 cup of dry red wine. Stir and let cook 20 minutes or more. Serve with rice, elbows or farfalle.

Orange Glazed Duck

Roasted Duck: Photo Source: Flicker/Tim Sackton

In Victorian times the main meal included a roasted bird turkey, goose or even duck. An orange glazed duck is a festive holiday meal and a change from turkey. This is accompanied by roasted potatoes and buttered carrots. It makes a delicious meal. Some ducks come with ala orange sauce heat the sauce and serve with cooked duck on the side.

You will need a roasting pan, small saucepan, knife, cutting board, measuring cups, spoon, basting brush, and knife.

one 5–6-pound duck raised without hormones and antibiotics

1 or 2 tablespoon avocado oil

1/2 orange cut into segments

2 tablespoon of thyme cut into pieces placed around the duck

Orange Glaze

1-1/2 oranges juiced

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon chicken stock


Defrost the duck in the refrigerator and remove the innards before roasting. Rub the duck with avocado oil on both sides and pierce the skin on both sides with a fork. Put the duck in the roasting pan. You will have to make the glaze before roasting the duck.

Cut oranges in half and squeeze juice or 1/1/2 oranges into small or medium saucepan. Add 1/3 cup of brown sugar. Over medium heat let glaze cook for a few minutes until it thickens. Stir constantly.

Put glaze on duck with basting brush on each side. Put orange slices around the duck and add sprigs of thyme. Roast duck at 350 degrees with lid on for 1 hour. Take off lid and let brown. Add rest of glaze with 1 tablespoon chicken stock. Remove lid and let duck brown. Cook to 180 degrees. It takes about 1-1/2 to 2 hours for a 5-6 pound duck. Serves 4.

Roasted Potatoes

You will need a cutting board, knife, microwave safe bowl, measuring spoons, baking tray, and parchment papers.

2 potatoes washed and cubed into bite sized pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a warm or hot water soak potatoes about 5 minutes and drain. In a microwave bowl add potatoes, olive oil, black pepper, and chili powder. Mix well. Microwave potatoes for ten minutes on high. Put on baking sheet with parchment paper and roast in oven at 350 degrees about 20 minutes or more until potatoes are golden brown. Serve 2

Extra Large Carrots with Butter

You will need a medium saucepan, cutting board, knife, strainer, and container or bowl.


4 extra-large carrots


1 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick of butter

On a cutting board cut the carrots into 2- 3-inch pieces. Fill a medium sized saucepan with water and bring to a boil add carrots and salt. Boil for about 45 minutes or less. Larger carrots take longer to cook. Drain when cooked put in bowl or container and add butter. Serves 4.

Vanilla Pudding with Fruit

Photo Source: Pixnio/Congerdesign

You will need a bowl or container, measuring cups and spoons, dessert bowls, or parfait glasses.


1 package instant vanilla pudding

2 cups milk

2 teaspoons vanilla exact

1 bag frozen strawberries

whipped cream

Mix one package of instant vanilla pudding with two cups of milk. Add vanilla extract to mixture. Whisk ingredients two minutes or more until it thickens. . Put pudding in refrigerator covered until you use it. Spoon pudding into parfait glasses add strawberries and whipped cream. Serves about 4 people.

Christmas Coffee

Animation Source: Giphy

This is a coffee serve in Victorian times with holiday desserts.

You will need cups, measuring spoon, kettle to boil water or pan, drip coffee maker or other device, and teaspoon.

Ingredients Per cup

Boiling water

1 square milk chocolate

1 teaspoon brown sugar

hot coffee

light cream

Heat water on the stove in pan or kettle. Brew a pot of coffee using a drip coffee maker. In a cup add one square of chocolate from candy bar. Add 1 teaspoon of brown sugar. Pour hot water in a cup to melt the chocolate and sugar. Stir well. Pour brewed coffee into a cup and add light cream.

Animation Source: Giphy


Victorian Christmas Traditions, English Heritage

What Was a Victorian Christmas Dinner Like? by Click Americana Team, Click Americana 2018

Common Victorian Christmas Food, Victoria Era

Victorian Holiday Celebrations Folklore and Traditions, Victorian Voices

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