Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Bringing and Ringing in Christmas Traditions by Kimberly Grist

When Prince Albert married Queen Victoria in 1840, he introduced the German tradition of celebrating Yuletide by decorating a tree to his family, which changed the face of Christmas.

The above picture was based on an image of Queen Victoria and her decorated Christmas tree previously published in The Illustrated London News in December 1848. 

A revised version was copied in Godley's in 1850 and removed what was referred to as royal trappings from Victoria's tiara and Prince Albert's mustache to remake the picture into an American scene. It was the first widely circulated picture of a decorated evergreen Christmas tree in America and was reprinted in 1860. By the 1870s, a Christmas tree was common in the United States.

New traditions also inspired caroling and Christmas music. Notable Songs from the 19th Century include:
  • "Joy to the World" 
  • "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" 
  • "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" 
  • "O Holy Night"
  • "Angels We Have Heard On High"
  • "We Three Kings of Orient Are"
  • "Jingle Bells" 

One of my favorite Christmas songs was inspired by a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Tragically in 1861, Longfellow's beloved wife of eighteen years died after her dress caught on fire. Longfellow could not attend her funeral due to the extensive burns he received attempting to save her life. His facial injuries caused him to stop shaving. He wore a beard from then on, which became his trademark.

In March 1863, Longfellow's oldest son Charley, left home unannounced to travel to join the Union Army. On December 1, 1863, Henry received a telegram that his son had been severely wounded while involved in a skirmish during the battle of the Mine Run Campaign.

On Christmas day in 1863, Longfellow, a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, heard the Christmas bells proclaiming "peace on earth" and wrote, "I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day."

The poem was first published in 1865. Longfellow's despair can be felt in its message that "hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men." However, the conclusion of the poem and song is the message of renewed hope. The powerful message resonates with many dealing with loss, worry, and grief during the holiday season.

More on Longfellow's Poem, Set to Music:

In 1872, the song would later be called "The Civil War Christmas Song" and continues to be popular today. The song with background photos taken during the Civil War can be viewed here:
I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day with Civil War photos

The Carol remains popular today, carrying renewed hope for peace among men.

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Fans of historical romance set in the late 19th -Century will enjoy stories combining, History, Humor, and Romance, emphasizing Faith, Friends, and Good, Clean Fun.
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