At this time of the year there will be a lot of events mimicking what people imagine a Victorian Christmas was like and will base their view of it on Charles Dickens (1812-1870) books of life in England in the period. His life was in a period of great change in Britain, born in the Napoleonic period, grew up during the Regency under the Reign of George IV and then William IV. For the last 30 years of his life he lived in the period of Victoria and Albert from 1837 to 1870. In his lifetime the industrial revolution took old with all the horrors that entails in a age with no social policies and a society based on class in a pyramid structure.
His books are a moral tale of sorts and a critique of society where the new emerging middle-class is aping the Aristocracy and the gentry and imagining what the Royals are like in a day when the Royal Family was out of bounds for most of the population, a very remote idealized family, no Netflix back then and no social media. In fact until 1960’s one could not speculate in the media on the Royal Family, you would have been ostracized and the media were more respectful.
But to come back to the idealized view of Victorian society and Christmas, it is romanticized and made to amuse but is very far from daily reality. Mary Poppins on steroids so to speak. In Victorian times people like Ebenezer Scrooge were legion and they did not have a conversion moment like St-Paul in which they came to help the poor and provide them with the fatten goose, gifts and money. It would have been unheard of to lower oneself socially to the level of Bob Cratchit and his family. Social status and rank was everything. Dickens wrote that story in 1843 a bleak time in Britain and in other European countries for the working poor in cities, sub-standard tenement housing, debtors prison, workhouses, child labour, 18 hour days and no weekend or holidays, no rights, no unions and no voting in elections, something reserved for the powerful landowners. In fact the large proportion of people who today love this story would have found themselves in impoverished conditions on the wrong side of the tracks. Only the wealthy merchant class, the gentry, the aristocracy would have had a jolly good Christmas in their great homes while the servants toiled.
This is why I do not understand that attachment to a Dickensian/Victorian Xmas. It was only a good time for a precious few. As for our modern traditions born from commercialism and crass consumerism it’s phony as baloney. I much prefer traditions that come from either your family or traditions you developed and fashioned in your life and share with those who matter to you.
This year a more personal Christmas will probably be the rule, quiet at home. It will seem strange, yes, but maybe this is what Christmas is suppose to be and not what it has become in the age of Climate change and pandemics. Listening to Christmas music this year, I am not really in the mood. It all sounds like music of another era, a time long ago, somewhat like big band music of the 1940’s. I am so looking forward to 2021.