Sharing a Victorian Christmas

victorian_xmas_treeAs Christmas draws closer, I always love sitting by the Christmas tree and reading Christmas stories. As a way of sharing this tradition, I thought I’d post an excerpt from my novel Discovering Emily. Canadian artist Emily Carr, the heroine of the novel, was born in Victoria, BC in 1871. The Christmas scene in Discovering Emily is based on Emily Carr’s own reminiscences about her childhood Christmases:

The day before Christmas, the Carr house filled with the spicy smell of boiling plum pudding and the fresh fir scent of the Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve Father took Emily and her younger sisters into town to see the shops lit up. Every lamppost had a fir tree tied to it, and the shop windows were decorated with mock snow made of cotton wool and sparkly dust. In the grocer’s window was a Santa Claus grinding coffee. Bonbons, clusters of raisins, nuts, candied fruits and long peppermint candy sticks surrounded him. At the end of the food shops was Chinatown. Its dark streets held no Christmas decorations. Emily’s father turned them around to head back to James Bay.

Before bed the children hung their stockings from the high mantel piece in the breakfast room, and Dede read “Twas the Night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse . . .”

At the bottom of the stairs Emily peaked into the dark dining room and smelled the Christmas tree waiting there. She couldn’t see it, but she knew that it stood there, touching the ceiling and hanging heavy with presents ready for the morning. Up in her bedroom the air was chilly, and Emily dove under the covers next to Alice. She wiggled with excitement.

“Be still,” whispered Alice. “I want to sleep.”

Emily tried to keep still, but she tossed one way and then the other. How could she fall asleep when there were presents waiting? She tried not to think of the new set of paints she wanted or of the cuddly puppy she had longed for. She knew it wouldn’t do any good to wish for them, but she couldn’t help hoping that something special hung on the tree for her.

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3 Responses to “Sharing a Victorian Christmas”

  1. J-P Antonio Says:

    Hello Jacquie,

    thank you for the posting these wonderful words about Christmas. I live in Japan where Christmas is a little different. In Japan many families eat Kentucky Fried Chicken on Dec 24th. They also eat a Christmas cake which is sort of like a shortcake with big sweet strawberries on top and sometimes candles. Parents often give presents to their children but adults usually don’t give presents to each other, unless they are a young couple. Young couple have expensive dinners in restaurants. For them Christmas is a time for romance.

    It used to bother me that Christmas in Japan is so different form the Christmas that I grew up with in Canada. I thought it was a bit artificial, but recently I have changed my mind. I think Christmas is a giant all-inclusive festival (matsuri) that can be about religion, or romance, or shopping, or contemplation. It’s all good. Now I enjoy Christmas in Japan.

    Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Kurisimasu! Jean-Pierre

  2. Rochelle Says:

    Enjoyed your sharing very much. The child filled with wonder and anticipation for Christmas. May the child within us retain this sense of renewal and remembered childhood memories.

  3. Rochelle Pearce Says:

    Here it is 2010 and still memorable to reread the passage. Christmas is still an experience of the heart for me. Thank you for sharing.

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