Preparing for Christmas Regency Style

Today, fellow Regency romance writer Regan Walker is joining me to discuss Christmas in the Regency era. If you love the elegance of Jane Austen's time and the sparkle and magic of Christmas, you'll love this post. Once you've taken a peek into Christmas past, please check out Regan's Regency Christmas novella The Twelfth Night Wager and her Regency Christmas short story The Holly and the Thistle.

Preparing for Christmas Regency Style 

By Regan Walker

In America, we often prepare for the Christmas holiday by buying a Christmas tree, decorating the
house, baking cookies and buying presents for friends and family. But in Regency England (1811-1820), when Prince George ruled as Prince Regent, very little of that was done. It was a more subtle celebration than the one we observe today and while there was revelry, and gift giving, it was different. Most of the traditions were steeped in the Christian faith.

For one thing, they didn’t decorate their homes with Christmas trees, at least not until the Victoria period, however they did bring in greenery—on Christmas Eve. Decorations went up that night and stayed up until Epiphany when the greens would be burned in the fireplace. Evergreens were the central part of the decoration, with boughs of holly, ivy, hawthorn, rosemary, and Christmas Rose (hellebore), depending on where you were in England. Of course, there was also mistletoe, although it grows mostly in the western and southwestern parts of Britain. (Friends or relatives in other parts of the country might send you some by the mail coach.) The mistletoe would more likely have been a “kissing bough”—a hanging structure of evergreens, apples, paper flowers, and dolls representing Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus.

On Christmas, it would be the children who might get a small toy as the adults did not exchange gifts as we do. Typically, Christmas Day would begin with a trip to church. After, there would be a great feast of roast goose, boar’s head (really the head of a pig, as wild boars became extinct in England as of 1185), and perhaps turkey (brought to England from the New World in 1550). Vegetables such as potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts and carrots were also served, along with stuffing for the fowl. Wonderful desserts ended the meal, including march pane (what we call marzipan), and gingerbread. Another favorite dessert was Christmas plum pudding, a mixture of 13 ingredients (representing Christ and the twelve apostles): suet, brown sugar, raisins, currants, citron, lemon and orange peels, spices, crumbs, flour, eggs, milk and brandy.

The day after Christmas was Boxing Day, when you gave presents or “boxes” to those who had given you good service during the previous year. It was also a traditional day for fox hunting. You did not necessarily have to worry about snow near Christmas, despite the story of Good King Wenceslaus. According to several sources, weather in most parts of England is often warm and damp. The winter of 1818, the year in which my novella The Twelfth Night Wager and my short story The Holly & The Thistle are set, was a particularly warm one.
The day and night of the 5th – Twelfth Night – was a time for masks and playacting. Cakes were part of this day, not Christmas. Twelfth day cakes were light and covered with colored sugar, and they contained a bean and a pea. The man who found the bean would become king for the night; the woman who found the pea would become queen. Another similar Twelfth Night tradition was for the ladies to pick a man’s name from a hat, and he would be her partner for the night. At the end of Twelfth Night, all the decorations should be taken down, and the greenery burned (or the house risked bad luck). The Yule log would have burned until this day.

The season ends with Epiphany, January 6, the Christian feast day.

To find out more about Regan and her novels, please follow the links below.

Regan’s Romance Reviews blog:
Twitter: @RegansReview (


Michelle Liew said...

THanks for the write up, and yes, I am certainly looking forward to Xmas!

Christina Paul said...

Just love reading about Christmas traditions- the books look like a perfect way to get in the spirit! thanks for sharing this fun info- My grandmother used to make real plum pudding- I think it's a lost art-

Linda Roy said...

I enjoyed reading about early Christmas traditions. Interesting how things have evolved since then.

Regan said...

Thanks, Georgie, for having me on your blog! I love talking about Christmas. And, for Christina Paul, you can find the recipe for plum pudding on my website under Regency Recipes.

Anonymous said...

Georgie, I loved reading about how Christmas was back then in Englad. This was extraordinary information :) thank you for sharing with us at Countdown in Style. Don't forget to stop by Friday to see if you are featured. xoxo

Isabelle Thornton said...

Very interesting! Fun read for me. Thanks so much for linking!

Danielle Royalegacy said...

I guess we are an old-fashioned family as we don't celebrate Christmas before Christmas but during those 12 Days of Christmas. We usually start to decorate just a week before the 25th. We even have a small Christmas celebration on Epiphany (or Little Christmas) as it is the day that the wise men came bearing gifts to the Christ Child.

Come and link up:

Janine Huldie said...

Truly didn't know much about this and enjoyed reading and learning about this here today. Thanks so much for sharing and linking up with us over at the Mommy Blog Hoppers today!! :)

Anonymous said...

I truly appreciate your 'lesson' on Christmas. The history of this holiday is amazing, and it's also pretty amazing to see how the idea of Christmas has changed over the decades. I'm sharing this with everyone as I think it's a great, well-written article. Thank you!

Rosevine Cottege said...

Thank you so much for sharing these great traditions. We found you from the Moonlight and Mason Jars linkup. We were wondering if you would come and link this up at our linky party too. We would love our friends to read it. It is located here:

We hope to see you there!!!!

TaMara Sloan said...

Thanks for sharing about Christmas traditions from that time. I am definitely looking forward to Christmas. Thanks for joining the party at Tales of a Pee Dee Mama.

Rebekah {honeyandcheese} said...

It sounds like there are parts of a Regency Christmas that would be good to incorporate with more modern traditions. I know I want to have a feast like that!

Julie Maloney said...

I'm all about all things Christmas right now, this was a great read!

April @ 100lb Countdown said...

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing with us.

Thanks for sharing and linking up with Countdown in Style! Don't forget to come back on Friday to see if you were featured!


Deanna Watson said...

I lived in Canada for a few months. Since I didn't really know what Boxing day was, I made it a tradition to watch Rocky movies on that day. Thanks for the lesson!
My entry is here:
Come by and vote for us?

Miz Helen said...

Thanks so much for sharing your great post with Full Plate Thursday and enjoy your Thanksgiving week!
Come Back Soon
Miz Helen