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9 Most Disturbing Old Christmas Traditions

Can you guess what the top weird Victorian Christmas traditions are?

Before the 1800s, Christmas was not nearly as well-known as today. Even if people used to celebrate it, it wasn’t spectacular, lavish, or even pretty. The 1840s introduced many beloved customs, including caroling, hanging stockings, Christmas trees, and cards. This implies that Christmas was mostly a Victorian creation.

But like everything that dates back to the Victorian era, many cherished customs have strange, bizarre, and sometimes even sinister origins. Some of these customs have faded into obscurity over time, like the parlor game Snapdragon, while others, like Christmas greetings, have taken on a lighter, more contemporary shape.

Are you curious to know how Christmas was during Victorian times? Below, we’ve made a list of some weird Victorian Christmas traditions. Prepare to be surprised!

weird Victorian Christmas traditions
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

1. Telling ghost stories around the fire

One of the most famous Christmas stories from the Victorian era is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, in which he talks about the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. Dickens wrote his narrative during a period when many Victorians speculated about life after death and were enthralled by spiritualism.

Although ghosts were popular throughout the Victorian era, Christmas and spirituality had roots in pagan customs related to the Winter Solstice. All that the Victorians did was feed the long-standing human obsession with ghosts and tie it into the Christian holiday of Christmas.

Does this seem unusual to you? Don’t worry, because this is just one of those weird Victorian Christmas traditions in which the whole family gathers at someone’s place to read ghost stories around the fire.

2. Coffin mince pies

Everybody loves eating pie, especially during the cold season! But what if we told you that during Victorian times, among various weird Victorian Christmas traditions, one was to bake coffin-shaped pies? Would you still eat them? Presented in the shape of coffins, these pies were filled with meat, fruits, and spices.

The coffin pies symbolize the crib where baby Jesus was kept, even if this is undoubtedly something macabre and strange. The mostly fruity filling we are familiar with today has progressively replaced the meat filling. Finally, it was decided that the coffin form was too bizarre, so it was also removed!

3. Christmas spooky cards were among the weird Victorian Christmas traditions!

The first Christmas card was created in the Victorian era by English painter John Callcott Horsley (1817–1903) for his wealthy and incredibly busy friend Sir Henry Cole. Cole realized he didn’t have enough time in his busy life to write out Christmas greetings for every member of his family and friends.

He reasoned that a card including a pretty image would be enough to fulfill this social holiday requirement, and he was absolutely correct. Or, as time passed, he would be. The problem is that many people first believed that the card trend would encourage alcohol consumption, which is why it didn’t take off.

But in the following years, Christmas cards became very popular and even appreciated. While most of them were cute and heartwarming, others were downright bizarre, depicting pictures of crows with human bodies, dead birds, or frogs ready for taxidermy. I don’t know about you, but I kind of wish to receive such cards for Christmas!

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4. Throwing peas at pedestrians

Among some weird Victorian Christmas traditions, throwing peas at pedestrians stands very high on top. This was more of a joke from schoolboys. After a demanding educational semester, young scholars would shoot peas from their carriage at random people on the street.

5. Eating savorless food

In today’s world, traditional Christmas food is huge, and we have a lot of goodies to choose from. But throughout the Victorian era, people used to eat a lot of unappetizing food. Some of them include stewed rockfish, potato pyramids, and mock turtle soup. These were considered sides for the main dish, which was, of course, turkey.

Turkey Galantine was a popular dish of the wealthy in Victorian England. It is a filled, boiled, and gelatinized cold dessert. Now, that was very gross!  If you were poor, a rabbit was the main dish, with some seasonal vegetables and oysters as a side.

Are you ready for some more weird Victorian Christmas traditions? Keep scrolling, because it’s getting even better!

weird Victorian Christmas traditions
Photo by Julija Ogrodowski from Shutterstock

6. One glass pickle hidden in the Christmas tree

Among other weird Victorian Christmas traditions, this with the glass pickle is by far the most bizarre. Traditionally, a glass Christmas pickle would be tucked away deep within a Victorian-era Christmas tree. The custom on Christmas morning was for kids to search the tree first, and the first one to find the pickle would receive a special gift or get to open presents first.

Although many individuals identify as German, the origin of this peculiar tradition is still unknown. How do you feel about this custom? It was strange, wasn’t it? It all comes down to learning how to be patient and knowing when to express gratitude for the blessings life has bestowed upon you.

7. Father Christmas and Santa Claus

Santa Claus, often known as Father Christmas, is typically thought of as the giver of presents. The two are two completely different stories. Originally a part of an ancient English midwinter celebration, Father Christmas was often clad in green and represented the arrival of spring.

In the seventeenth century, Dutch immigrants brought the legends of St. Nicholas to America. Beginning in the 1870s, Sinter Klass gained notoriety as Santa Claus, bringing with him his own gift-giving and toy-distribution system complete with a sleigh and reindeer.

8. People attend the Christmas Cattle Show

When it comes to weird Victorian Christmas traditions, the famous cattle show is something worth mentioning! Even if individuals in that generation weren’t particularly fond of being overweight, they nevertheless wanted to go to the Cattle Show.

Many Victorians eager to witness the massive creatures that emerged from selective breeding and agricultural breakthroughs in the 19th century looked forward to the historic tradition of the Smithfield Club Cattle Show, which launched in London in 1799.

9. Football was the main tradition

I bet that didn’t exactly cross your mind when you thought about Christmas! However, this is just another one of the weird Victorian Christmas traditions on the list. Football meant that, in a period of few entertainment alternatives, supporters would sometimes put off their Christmas turkey dinner to catch a match. It was common for important matches to take place on Boxing Day and Christmas Day.

For instance, Everton hosted two games on Christmas Day in 1888, drawing a sizable audience of 2,000 spectators at the time. People were having a great time, even though it may sound weird to us now, and fans were going further to watch sports on Christmas Day.

The fact that there was no such thing as a transit shutdown and that people could easily watch football leagues made them luckier than us. Unfortunately, the custom was dropped not long after the matches were shown on television.

Do you know any other weird Victorian Christmas traditions we forgot to mention? Tell us in the comments.

…And if you’re curious about other weird things from Victorian times? You may also like 7 Dangerous Victorian Era Household Products Everyone Used.


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