Ever wonder how Jane Austen and her characters celebrated Christmas?
In Regency times Christmas was a less popular holiday than it is today or even in the Victorian times. There was time off from work and school where families and friends would gather together for evening parties, dinners or balls but no Christmas trees were to be found and few gifts were given. Attending church service on Christmas day was a must but few of the Christmas Carols we sing now would have been sung.
Yet, even though Christmas was used as more of a reference point by Jane Austen, she does mention Christmas in each of her six major novels and in Lady Susan and one of her surviving letters.
Take a look at how the characters in each story
"At Christmas every body invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the worst weather. I was snowed up at a friend's house once for a week."
- Mr. Elton, Emma, Chapter 13
|“...a ball you would have this very Christmas.” |
- Mrs. Norris, Mansfield Park, Chapter 26
Northanger Abbey: While Catherine Morland was spending a snug Christmas at home with her family in Fullerton her eldest brother James was on break from his college and spent Christmas visiting the Thorpe family. James falls head-over-heels for Isabella who remembers looking lovely in her "yellow gown, with my hair done up in braids". (NA, Chapters 4 & 15)
Pride and Prejudice: Mrs. Bennet's brother Mr. Gardiner and his wife and children always spend Christmas visiting her at Longbourn. The Bennets enjoy an evening at their Aunt Phillip's house where Elizabeth has the happy task of introducing her Aunt Gardiner to Mr. Wickham. Meanwhile Caroline Bingley has written to Jane Bennet wishing her Christmas will abound in gaieties and completely happy to spend Christmas in London. But the next year's Christmas might be different, perhaps the Bennets will be spending Christmas at Pemberley!
"Mr. Darcy sends you all the love in the world that he can spare from me. You are all to come to Pemberley at Christmas."
- Elizabeth Bennet, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 60
Persuasion: Anne Elliot has an extended visit with Lady Russell at Kellynch Lodge over Christmas. On Christmas day they go over to Uppercross where they find the Musgrove family and the Harvilles making merry with noisy games and messy craft projects. Anne enjoys the noisy happy country life but Lady Russell prefers the noise of a town like Bath. (Persuasion, Chapter 14)
Sense and Sensibility: The Christmas before the Dashwood ladies settled at Barton Cottage Sir John Middleton held a Christmas ball at Barton Park where Mr. Willoughby reportedly danced with elegance and spirit from "eight o'clock till four, without once sitting down"! Sir John goes on to say "and he was up again at eight to ride to covert." Truly a young man with health and lively spirits who enjoys a ball as much as Marianne could do. (S&S, Chapter 9)
Lady Susan: It is shortly before Christmas that Lady Susan Vernon, tiring of her stay to the Manwarings, writes to her brother-in-law Charles Vernon informing him that she will be coming bag and baggage to stay for a long visit. Charles' wife Catherine is quite put out and writes to her parents that she and their children will be unable to make their usual Christmas visit. Although Churchill, the home of Charles & Catherine Vernon, would be such a lovely place to spend Christmas who really wants to celebrate the holiday with Lady Susan! (Letters 3 and 13)
Jane Austen's Letters: And Jane Austen herself hopes for warm weather for Christmas, she writes to her sister Cassandra in a letter dated December 2nd:
"I am sorry my mother has been suffering, and am afraid this exquisite weather is too good to agree with her. I enjoy it all over me, from top to toe, from right to left, longitudinally, perpendicularly, diagonally; and I cannot but selfishly hope we are to have it last till Christmas -- nice, unwholesome, unseasonable, relaxing, close, muggy weather."
Which of these Christmases sound the most interesting to you? Vote now!
Which Jane Austen Christmas did you vote for?
If you could invite any of Jane Austen's characters to Christmas dinner who would you invite?