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1890 Room

Geffrye Museum - Christmas Past


Every winter the Geffrye Museum decorates its period room sets in authentic festive style. (More information below the photo.)
Geffrye Museum, Christmas Past: 1890 room

Geffrye Museum, Christmas Past: 1890 room

© Laura Porter, licensed to About.com, Inc.
This information is taken from the information signs at the Geffrye Museum.

"Wishing you an utterly charming time"

In this room a family celebrate Christmas in an artistic manner. Their decorations are inspired by the Aesthetic Movement and its love of all things Japanese. They have decorated branches of twigs with small lanterns, and have also used oriental fans to decorate the room.

The Christmas card, unlike the Christmas tree, was an English invention. In the late-eighteenth century, children would sometimes give their parents written seasonal greetings in order to show their ability at handwriting. However, the 'first' commercial Christmas card was devised by Sir Henry Cole in 1843. It was intended to save Cole, who had numerous business and social contacts, from writing individual letters.

It was not until the 1860s, however, that the custom of sending cards became more common, first among the upper and middle classes, who previously would have written a seasonal message on their visiting cards. With the introduction of a cheap rate for postcards and unsealed envelopes in 1870, the sending of cards increased dramatically.

By 1880 the Post Office, burdened with this extra seasonal workload, had begun advising to 'Post Early for Christmas'. Sound advice which it has propounded ever since. Early in this instance, however, meant on the morning of the 24th December!

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