—Fifteenth-century carol, Reginald Thorne Davies, Medieval English Lyrics: A Critical Anthology, 1972.
The Christmas tree was introduced in Britain during the Georgian period, in the early 1800s following the personal union with the Kingdom of Hanover, by Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen to King George III.
“I must now seek in the children an echo of what Ernest, his brother, and I were in the old time, of what we felt and thought; and their delight in the Christmas tree is not less than ours used to be.”- Prince Albert…
A Victorian family's most prized ornament was the Nuremberg angel atop the tree. It had wings of spun glass, a crinkled gold skirt, and a wax or bisque face. Angels or cherubs represented the Victorian ideal of childlike or womanly innocence.
Charles Dickens wrote books like "Christmas Carol", published in 1843, which encouraged rich Victorians to redistribute their wealth by giving money and gifts to the poor - Humbug! These radical middle class ideals eventually spread to the not-quite-so-poor as well.
Kissing Under the Mistletoe
Those who met under it could claim a kiss. This was away around the social restrictions of the times. No unmarried girl could spend time alone with a young man if they were courting; then they would be chaperoned. At Christmas, under the mistletoe, a lover could taste their sweetheart's lips, perhaps for the first time. The number of kisses allowed under each plant depended on the number of berries. Each time a kiss was given, a berry was taken off. No more berries, no more kisses!
Carolers would stop at houses to sing and play the popular carols :
1843 - O Come all ye Faithful
1848 - Once in Royal David's City
1851 - See Amid the Winters Snow
1868 - O Little Town of Bethlehem
1883 - Away in a Manger
…in the hopes to be invited for a warm drink.
Dickens might not have invented Christmas, but he is credited with the great revival of Christmas traditions in the Victorian era, which have continued in one form or the other to the present day in all English-speaking countries around the globe.
"And I do come home at Christmas. We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday -- the longer, the better -- from the great boarding-school, where we are for ever working at our arithmetical slates, to take, and give a rest. As to going a visiting, where can we not go, if we will, where have we not been, when we would, starting our fancy from our Christmas Tree!"