The Victorians loved bringing in the countryside for their seasonal decorations. Fresh greenery, such as berried evergreens, mistletoe, ivy and later holly were made into decorations for many weeks before the holiday.
Holly was used in Roman solstice ceremonies and it was believed that the red berries would ward off evil spirits and stormy weather.
Mistletoe was included in secular decoration only due to association with pagan rituals. Druid priests harvested it from sacred oaks on the fifth day of the new moon after the winter solstice. Norse warriors who met underneath it declared a truce. Victorians kissed under the mistletoe, but only while there were berries on it, because a berry is to be removed after each kiss! From Christmas tree to wreath and advent crowns the evergreen symbolizes strength and hope in winter months.
The use of special candles in church services of all denominations and in secular decorating can be traced back to midwinter pagan festivities.
It was believed that light was a way to keep evil spirits away. In Victorian England it was customary to place lighted candles in the windows during the twelve days of Christmas as a sign to weary travelers that food and shelter could be found within. The 12 Days of Christmas start on Christmas Day and last until the evening of the 5th January – also known as Twelfth Night. The 12 Days have been celebrated in Europe since before the middle ages and were a time of celebration.
The tradition of the Advent Candle is a Christian symbolic practice that represents the four weeks of preparation for Christmas. It was customary during the Victorian era to incorporate the candles amongst the evergreen wreath and light them on the Sunday’s leading up to Christmas. Each church denomination has their own variations, but following Victoria’s Lutheran heritage, the first Sunday’s candle was purple and was the Bethlehem candle which represents prophesy or hope. The second purple Bethlehem candle is for peace and or preparation. The third candle, the rose Shepherd Candle symbolized love or the pink Angel Candle represented joy. The final candle on the Sunday before Christmas is the pure white Christ Candle representing the birth of the Son of God.
I hope you are enjoying the Christmas Foods and Traditions Series! See you tomorrow!