December Talk: Christmas and the British

This month’s lecture was given by Dr Martin Johnes of Swansea University.

Christmas, as we know it today, was largely a Victorian creation. With the growing tensions of industrialisation, the Victorians looked back with nostalgia to Merry England and childhood whilst promoting a sense of charity and social obligation. Public giving was important with lists of donors and their gifts to schools and workhouses appearing in the newspapers.Christmas cards, nativity scenes, and carols convey the religious message and church attendance on Christmas Day shows little decline.

Complaints that Christmas is becoming more secular and starts too early are not confined to our era. Whilst the Victorians created the commercial Christmas, what has changed is the scale of the celebrations. Rising prosperity has resulted in increased spending and advertising. Public Houses formerly the hub of many celebrations are now closed on Christmas Day. The common experiences of Christmas still help to bind families and communities together but perhaps not as strongly as in the past.


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