I have a hard time not loving everything about the Victorian Christmas traditions, partly because I love that period in history—it just seemed so romantic and simple (well, minus the cholera, poverty, rampant violence, and those really uncomfortable looking corsets and bustles).
We can thank those who lived in the Victorian era (1837-1901) for many of our modern-day Christmas customs. They were responsible for reviving the age-old Christmas carol, creating the first Christmas card, and decorating with holly and mistletoe. Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in the 1840s, and the Christmas tree—a concept that originated in Germany—found popularity in Britain when Queen Victoria’s German-born husband Prince Albert brought one into Windsor Castle. Even the roast turkey dinner has its beginnings in Victorian Britain (before that the Christmas dinner was often roasted beef or goose, or rabbit for those without much money).
I was thrilled to see that you can experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of a Victorian Christmas, circa 1875, at the Alexander Ramsey House in St. Paul starting this Friday, Nov. 23, and running on various dates (excluding Dec. 25 and 26) through Dec. 30. Tours can be scheduled anywhere from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and tickets range from $7-$11 ($3 if you’re a member of the Minnesota Historical Society). Check their website for available dates and times.
According to the website, “During the [Victorian Christmas] tour, visitors can taste homemade cookies fresh from the wood burning stove, listen to popular holiday music of the era played on the family’s Steinway piano and view original family ornaments and Christmas gifts. Discover how the Ramsey family and their friends, neighbors and servants prepared for and celebrated the Christmas season. Shop in the Carriage House gift store for replica Victorian ornaments and other holiday items.”
On Nov. 29, there’s also a “History Happy Hour: Victorian Winter Cocktails” event hosted by Jesse Held, founder of the North Star Bartenders Guild/bartender at Eat Street Social, the Christmas Dollhouse event on Dec. 6 (complete with a craft project and stories about the beloved dollhouse, owned by the youngest granddaughter of Alexander Ramsey), and A Little Women Christmas Dec. 13, when you can channel your inner Meg, Jo, Beth or Amy and play parlor games, sing carols, and learn about Victorian fashions.
After touring this house around the holidays, you might just be tempted to blurt out, “God bless us, every one!”
Call 651-296-8760 to make reservations.