Conspicuous Consumption and Festive Follies: Victorian Images of Christmas

Sara M. Dodd

in Christmas, Ideology and Popular Culture

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2008 | ISBN: 9780748628087
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653065 | DOI:
Conspicuous Consumption and Festive Follies: Victorian Images of Christmas

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This chapter explores how the creation of a Christmas ‘tradition’, with its associated symbols and rituals, originates in Victorian images of a nostalgic past where the antics and activities of wassailers provide credibility and sustenance for the Victorian present. There are warnings against over-indulgence and reminders of traditional Christian virtues like charity in both high art (Royal Academy paintings) and popular culture (cartoons in the magazine Punch and Christmas cards). The Christmas tree has a well-known provenance. ‘Christmas cards and crackers’ in The Times of 19 December 1895 begins. A middle-class and upmarket publication, The Graphic magazine, reported ‘the abundance of berries on both holly and mistletoe made the internal decoration of most houses unusually bright and cheerful and it was to be observed that the regular Christmas plants were generally used, to the exclusion of laurel and other aids to decoration in ordinary seasons’.

Keywords: Christmas; Victorian images; symbols; rituals; Royal Academy paintings; cartoons; Punch; Christmas cards; The Graphic; The Times

Chapter.  5312 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cultural Studies

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