This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Traditional Christmas in Regency England

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

The Christmas Feast
Christmas dinner was typically around 4 PM. As the evening progressed a Christmas toast was given to the season and gifts were given out, usually this is when servants also
received their gifts and children would sing Christmas carols for entertainment.

Since water was unsafe to drink, they usually had wine with their meal. (I haven't found a source that indicated what the children drank.) Roast Beef and Venison were the main course. Other meats included goose, pheasant, swan and peacock. The goose was most popular until the mid-century when turkey became a preference. By the Victorian period, turkey was the standard Christmas meat. Often, bakers cooked the meat for those households that contained small ovens. Many would pick up
their food on the way home from church. Like today, stuffing for the bird, vegetables such as potatoes, beans, squash, and carrots, enhanced the meal. 

For dessert there was Mince pie and Christmas pie. Recipes varied by region, but typical ingredients included beef, sugar, raisins, lemons, spices, orange peel, goose, tongue, fowls, eggs, apples and brandy. The pies were eaten each day for 12 days before Christmas to ensure good luck for the next 12 months of the new year. Talk about a chance to gain weight over the holidays!

Another dessert was Christmas pudding, a mixture of 13 ingredients (representing Christ and the twelve apostles) which was boiled in a pudding cloth. Ingredients included suet, brown sugar, raisins, currants, citron, lemon and orange peels, spices, crumbs, flour, eggs, milk and brandy.

Other desserts included Gingerbread and butter shortbread. Children enjoyed sugar plums and ginger nuts.

Christmas Carols
Caroling dates back to the middle ages. Songs such as: Here We Come a Wassailing, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The First Noel, Good Christian Men Rejoice and Greensleeves are all traditional carols from the Middle Ages. Caroling in the form of tramping from door to door had died out with the end of the feudal system in England and didn't revive again until the Victorian period. In Jane Austen’s era, family and friends typically spread good cheer in the comfort of their homes among gathered friends and family at balls, dinners, small parties, and churches.

  • O Come All Ye Faithful was first published in 1760, but not translated into English until 1841.
  • Joy to the World was first published by Isaac Watts' 1719 hymnal, The Psalms of David, but the modern version wasn't written until 1836.
  • Hark the Harold Angels Sing was first written in 1739 by Charles Wesley, amended in 1753 by George Whitfield, but the modern version of today wasn't written until 1840 by Mendohlsson.
  • Silent Night was written in 1816 by Joseph Mohr, but wasn't translated into English until 1863.

Christmas Trees & Decorations
Typically, Christmas trees didn't exist as they do now and did in the Victorian period. If a family did have a tree, it was a table top tree and quite plain. Decorations were live greenery with berries, including mistletoe. They burned the yule log as a tradition. It was HUGE and picked out and dried out from the year before. It wasn't brought in until Christmas Eve and hoped to burn through the night and all through Christmas day. They didn't exchange Christmas cards or multiple, elaborate gifts. If they did exchange gifts, it was usually one special hand-made item.

Regency Yuletide -


Thank you for this wonderful post. It's fun to learn about other traditions.

I love history and the origin of traditions. Which I guess is why I wrote my history book.

My daughters and I were discussing the origin of different nursery rhymes today. I learned a lot.

History is so fascinating to me. It's neat to learn where we get certain sayings and traditions from.

Oh, I just loved reading about regency era Christmas. Thank you for posting this!

You have a lovely blog. I can't wait to read your book too, how exciting :). I love this post because I absolutely love the regency era. My sisters and I have even made several regency dresses and had our pictures taken in them. I'm a self proclaimed Jane Austen freak.

Carla, I love this time period too! The Regency era was so different from the Victorian period.

A.L., I want a Regency dress. This past summer I had a Scottish Renaissance gown made for my daughter and myself. I plan to dress in the period dress to sign books--even though Highland Blessings actually takes place a century earlier in the late medieval period. I hope you enjoy my book! I've written one Regency and I'm now writing a Regency series, the title is A Season of Atonement.

What a great post! Absolutely fascinating.