Queen Charlotte introduced the Christmas Tree to Britain in 1800.

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For some years it was assumed that Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort had introduced the Christmas Tree into Great Britain.
However, that honour rightfully belongs to Queen Charlotte, the German born wife of George III in December of 1800.
That year Queen Charlotte planned to hold a large Christmas party for the children of all the principal families in Windsor.
And casting about in her mind for a special treat to give the youngsters, she suddenly decided that instead of the customary yew bough, she would pot up an entire yew tree, cover it with baubles and fruit, load it with presents and stand it in the middle of the drawing-room floor at Queen’s Lodge.
Such a tree, she considered, would make an enchanting spectacle for the little ones to gaze upon.
When the children arrived at the house on the evening of Christmas Day and beheld that magical tree, all aglitter with tinsel and glass, they believed themselves transported straight to fairyland and their happiness knew no bounds.
CEMbtmLWIAA_54gQueen Charlotte.
Dr John Watkins, one of Queen Charlotte’s biographers, who attended the party, provides us with a vivid description of this captivating tree ‘from the branches of which hung bunches of sweetmeats, almonds and raisins in papers, fruits and toys, most tastefully arranged; the whole illuminated by small wax candles’.
He adds that ‘after the company had walked round and admired the tree, each child obtained a portion of the sweets it bore, together with a toy, and then all returned home quite delighted’.
Christmas trees now became all the rage in English upper-class circles, where they formed the focal point at countless children’s gatherings.
As in Germany, any handy evergreen tree might be uprooted for the purpose; yews, box trees, pines or firs. Trees placed on table tops usually also had either a Noah’s Ark or a model farm and numerous gaily-painted wooden animals set out among the presents beneath the branches to add extra allurement to the scene.
By the time Queen Charlotte died in 1818, the Christmas-tree tradition was firmly established in society, and it continued to flourish throughout the 1820s and 1830s.
The fullest description of these early English Yuletide trees is to be found in the diary of Charles Greville, the witty, cultured Clerk of the Privy Council, who in 1829 spent his Christmas holidays at Panshanger, Hertfordshire, home to Peter, 5th Earl Cowper, and his wife Lady Emily.
But it was not until periodicals such as the Illustrated London News, Cassell’s Magazine and The Graphic began to depict and describe the royal Christmas trees every year from 1845 until the late 1850s, that the custom of setting up such trees in their own homes caught on with the masses in England.
By 1860, however, there was scarcely a well-off family in the land that did not sport a Christmas tree in parlour or hall.
And all the December parties held for pauper children at this date featured gift-laden Christmas trees as their main attraction.
The spruce fir was now generally accepted as the festive tree par excellence, but the branches of these firs were no longer cut into artificial tiers or layers as in Germany, but were allowed to remain intact, with candles and ornaments arranged randomly over them, as at the present day.
via History Today.

A Scottish Christmas Yarn for the Tightarses.

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The Yarn Begins:
An old man in Scotland calls his son in London the day before Christmas Eve and says, “I hate to ruin your day son but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.”
“Dad, what are you talking about?” the son screams.
“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer” the father says. “We’re sick of each other and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Leeds and tell her.”
Frantically, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “Like hell they’re getting divorced!” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this!”
She calls Scotland immediately, and screams at her father “You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we will both be up there tomorrow.
“Until then, don’t do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “That’s Sorted! They’re coming up for Christmas tomorrow and they’re paying their own way.”

Rob Powell

Caribbean Black Cake.

If you’re someone who can’t wait to plan Christmas every year, it’s never too early to start preparing the Caribbean holiday treat known as black cake.
To make this dessert, islanders soak dried fruit in rum and cherry brandy for up to a year before baking.
After British colonists introduced plum pudding (which is more like cake than it sounds) to Caribbean islands, locals adapted the recipe with available ingredients.
Black cake may be a far cry from the original pudding or its cousin, fruitcake, but it does include a combination of cherries, raisins, prunes, currants, and dates.
Where traditional fruitcake makers leave the pieces of soaked fruit intact, black cake bakers pulverize them into a sweet paste.
The finished product is a rich, smooth cake that may be iced, but more often stands alone.
Regional flavors punctuate the uniquely Caribbean confection. A combination of extracts, called “mixed essence,” adds notes of vanilla, almond, and pear (though on Trinidad, home of Angostura, recipes may use bitters and vanilla).
A homemade burnt-sugar syrup called “browning” contributes a caramel flavor. And the rum-soaked fruit offers a bit of bittersweetness.
The New York Times describes the resulting cake as “darker, deeper and altogether more absorbing” than its fruitcake relatives.
Families across the islands and their relatives in the United States—especially in New York—reserve baking and eating black cake for Christmas.
Whoever’s making black cake bakes only a few, so giving one is a deeply affectionate gesture. Someone devoted months of preparation and more than four hours of baking to each cake, along with lots of love, liquor, and expensive fruit.
Digging in should make you feel like a slice of the sweet itself—warm and more full of rum than you appear.Need to KnowSome Caribbean and West Indian establishments sell black cakes during the holiday season.
If you’d like to try your hand at making black cake, but don’t have year-old, booze-soaked fruit at home, fret not—many recipes say three days of soaking works just fine.
Source: Black Cake – Gastro Obscura

The Birth of the Christmas Card, 1843.

Cultures have enjoyed sharing written New Year’s greetings for centuries. The English-speaking ritual of sending holiday cards, however, dates back only to the middle of the 19th century.
Some sources say it originated with Thomas Shorrock, of Leith, Scotland, who, in the 1840s, produced cards showing a jolly face with the caption “A Gude Year to Ye.” a Guid New Year
Credit more commonly goes to Sir Henry Cole, who would later become the first director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
He commissioned an artist to create 1,000 engraved holiday cards in 1843. Cole’s greeting featured a prosperous-looking family toasting the holidays, flanked on both sides by images of kindly souls engaging in acts of charity.
A caption along the bottom read, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.”

The world’s first commercially produced Christmas card, designed by John Callcott Horsley for Henry Cole in 1843
With advances in printing technology and mail service, the practice of sending commercially produced Christmas cards caught on.
By the 1880s, it was an integral part of the holiday season for many American families as well. In “The Female World of Cards and Holidays: Women, Families, and the Work of Kinship,” Yale anthropologist Micaela di Leonardo explains that the practice thrived amid postbellum industrialization and the demise of the family farm.
As relatives spread out geographically, women assumed responsibility for “the work of kinship” and became caretakers of extended family connections. Christmas cards were a convenient way for them to nurture relationships among their husbands, children, and distant relatives.
As the Christmas card habit took hold, manufacturers rushed to meet demand. Best known was German emigrant Louis Prang, who produced attractive and reasonably priced chromolithographed cards for the mass market. He is often referred to as the father of the American Christmas card.
Not all manufacturers were as concerned with quality. Many of them relied on trite and overly sentimental images to decorate their greetings.
In 1885, The Decorator and Furnisher magazine criticized the industry for its ubiquitous imaginings of “pantaletted young ones” singing in snowstorms and “angels floating in mid-air bearing a baby.
 Such tiresome subjects, the article lamented, created “no agreeable sensations.” Also troublesome were the poor production values.
That same year, The Art Amateur magazine faulted a British manufacturer for offering a card that featured the image of a cherub whose head was “too intangibly connected with her body even for a disembodied spirit.”
Industry critics predicted that the American public would soon tire of Christmas cards. But then, in the early 1900s, improvements in image reproduction technology allowed the greeting-card market to surge to new heights.
In 1900, The British Medical Journal applauded a new series of Christmas cards with “platino-panel reproductions” that resembled photographic prints. The variety of subjects featured on the new cards also increased—sporting themes, landscapes, and patriotic drawings of men in regimental uniforms.
Read on via A Brief History of the Holiday Card | JSTOR Daily

Top Christmas Gift List from 1948 looks super strange in 2017.

Take a look at Macy’s best-selling holiday gifts of 1948—which LIFE compiled, along with the number of each item sold and at what price—and it’s immediately apparent that things have changed since then.
For starters, the gifts then skewed more toward the practical.
Such everyday items as a pair of nylons or a ballpoint pen, the department store’s third- and fourth-highest-selling items that season, may ignite little excitement in today’s gift receiver, who has been conditioned to want little more than the latest Apple product.
Second, there is a conspicuous absence of anything technological, whereas nearly seven decades later, more than two thirds of holiday shoppers plan to purchase electronics for their loved ones.
Then again, the rise of personal technology was still decades away, as these were the days when fewer than 10% of households even had a TV set.
Rather than instruments of entertainment, gift-givers wrapped up objects that were wearable or edible, and immediately usable: a pair of pajamas, a bottle of scotch or that perennial favourite, some sturdy slippers.
Basic, to be sure—but sure to be put to frequent use.
via Top Christmas Gifts: See How Popular These 1948 Best-Selling Christmas Gifts Were ~ vintage everyday