Monday, November 30, 2020

Christmas 1817

 This year we are celebrating a very different sort of Christmas. It has happened before because of wars, and other pandemics and plagues. In 1817, it was a different Christmas in England because the much-loved heiress to the throne had recently died. Nevertheless, Christmas went ahead and was celebrated in some old and some new ways.

Richard Rush, a visitor to London as the new ambassador from the United States of America, recorded Christmas Eve 1817 in his diary and recounted it in his book "A Residence At The Court Of London".

December 24 [1817].--Go through several parts of the town: Bond Street, Albemarle Street, Berkeley Square, Piccadilly, St. James's Street and Park, Pall Mall, St. James's Square, the Strand, and a few others. Well-dressed persons, men and women, throng them. In the dresses of both, black predominates. It is nearly universal. This proceeds from the general mourning for the Princess Charlotte, late heiress apparent to the throne, who died in November. The roll of chariots, and carriages of all kinds, from two until past four, was incessant. In all directions they were in motion. It was like a show--the horses, the coachmen with triangular hats and tassels, the footmen with cockades and canes--it seemed as if nothing could exceed it all.  ....
Being the day before Christmas, there was more display in the shops than usual. I did not get back until candle-light. The whole scene began to be illuminated. Altogether, what a scene it was! The shops in the Strand and elsewhere, where every conceivable article lay before you; and all made in England..

The Ladies' Monthly Museum posted fashion notes of the aforesaid black clothes. They were certainly a  visible, notable difference in the season that year.

The Liverpool Mercury posted one of the typical offerings of amateur poetry that filled newspapers and journals of the time.

And the Suffolk Chronicle; or Weekly General Advertiser & County Express recorded the usual school treat:

The Bury and Norwich Post offered two happenings that illustrated that human nature does not alter, despite the changes that might occur in circumstances from year to year.

Wherever you are this year, whoever you are with, I hope that you can celebrate Christmas and the holiday season in a way that is meaningful to you. Change is not always bad and hardship engenders gratitude for that which we do year will be better.

Stay safe, and have a Happy Christmas,

'Til next time,