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Historical Christmas Trees: Guest Post by Author Donna Hatch

This week, I am pleased to feature a delightful blog post by historical romance author Donna Hatch.

First, let's meet Donna Hatch:

Author Bio

Award-winning author of over two dozen best-selling Historicals, Donna Hatch is a masterful storyteller of captivating tales of courage, second chances, redemption, and lasting love. Meticulously researched, and beautifully written, her romances take place amidst the Regency Era immortalized by Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and Lord Byron. Donna weaves virtue and values into her tales yet includes plenty of chemistry. Every “Sweet” or “Clean and Wholesome” Donna Hatch romance brings courageous heroines and swoony heroes together for a glorious happily ever after. When she’s not writing or researching, Donna loves to dance—especially ballroom and hula—sing, hike, go to the beach, add to her growing collection of books, and therefore bookshelves. She also loves to dress up in costumes, which her kids say is cool if it's called Cos Play. Donna and her husband of over thirty years have raised six children and are discovering the joy of grandchildren.

In addition to her novels, Donna has a fun website where you can explore all things Regency romance. She has written several Christmas blog posts about Regency-Era Christmas traditions. Check out her blog here for those articles and many other fun historical romance articles.

Without further ado, let's learn a little from Donna about the origins of the Christmas Tree in England and how to decorate a Victorian-style Christmas Tree:

Historical Christmas Trees

"When we think of a historical Christmas, most of us picture a Charles Dickens scene complete with a goose or turkey and a Christmas tree, but such a charming image is largely Victorian and therefore not as ancient as most of is believe. For one thing, the English haven’t always included Christmas trees in their celebration.

Early on, they decorated yew trees with small gifts or candy. But even this tradition was not wide-spread until about the 1840’s. Queen Victoria ‘s husband, Prince Albert, decorated the first Christmas tree in Windsor Castle about 1841, according to some sources. Albert was from Germany, a place where they’d long used Christmas trees. He decorated a tree using candles, candies, and paper chains. The custom spread across England. Before long, all of the English wanted to have Christmas trees just like the queen’s. And shortly thereafter, so did Americans.

Over time, people started to use more elaborate decorations on their trees, including gingerbread men, marzipan candies, hard candies, cookies, fruit, cotton-batting Santas (a.k.a Father Christmas), paper fans, tin soldiers, whistles, wind-up toys, pine cones, dried fruits, nuts, berries, and trinkets of all kinds. They often hung cornucopias filled with sweets, fruit, nuts and popcorn on their trees. Small homemade gifts such as tiny hand-stitched dolls or children’s mittens were also popular. Beautiful angels were the tree toppers of choice, and some families set up a Nativity scene under the tree using moss for grass and mirrors for ponds.

By around 1860, people bought German ornaments including glass icicles and hand-blown glass globes called “kugels” which evolved into our modern-day

Christmas balls. Here is a picture to the right of a kugel. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Another popular decoration was made of embossed silver and gold cardboard ornaments in a variety of shapes called “Dresdens” like the one pictured to the left.

Decorating a Victorian tree today would be pretty simple without investing a great deal of money. Here are a few things you could do to get that old-fashioned, Victorian effect.

  • String popcorn and cranberries to make a garland. My children love to help do this.

  • Shape small paper doilies into cornucopias and fill with candy.

  • Recycle old Christmas cards. Cut out shapes you like and attach them to the tree with ribbons to make mock Dresdens.

  • Make or buy small cookies to hang on the tree. You can decorate them with glitter if you like. Hairspray works great as a preservative.

  • Fill small mesh bags with colorful candy and tie them with ribbon.

  • Spray nuts in the shell with gold paint and glue a slender cord to them so they’ll hang on the tree.

  • Use electric lights in the shape of candles — some of them even flicker.

  • Decorate the tree with small toys. I love cherubs, another Victorian favorite.

  • Decorative tassels look beautiful on a tree.

  • Use some wide ribbon–Victorians preferred velvet–and shape it into pretty bows or swirls.

  • Fold wrapping paper in the shape of fans and put them on the tree. Kids love to make fans.

  • Add anything made of lace.

Do you have any favorite old family customs you do for Christmas?"

**Blog post originally appeared on Donna Hatch's website here.


Wasn't that fun? I loved learning more about a Victorian-era Christmas. I love her decorating ideas. My family has a tradition of stringing popcorn and cranberries on our tree every year. To browse Donna Hatch's books and all things Regency Romance, visit Donna Hatch's website:

Donna Hatch is the author of several Christmas Regency Romances. Find your next Christmas read from her collection below:

A stolen Christmas kiss leaves them bewildered and breathless.

A charming rogue-turned-vicar, Will wants to prove that he left his rakish days behind him, but an accidental kiss changes all his plans. His secret could bring them together...or divide them forever.

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; finally earn her mother's approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss . . . [read more]

All Clarissa wants is to go home for Christmas, but a storm and an accident dash all her hopes. Trapped in a dark castle and longing for her family and their holiday traditions, Clarissa discovers the heart of an ancient and terrible secret.

It will take more than a Christmas wish to break the curse and find a happily ever after . . . [read more]

Fate reunites the star-crossed lovers and reveals the truth that will either unite them or drive them apart forever.

Heartbroken at the news that her betrothed has wed another woman, Emily is determined to pick up the pieces of her life and enjoy Christmas with her family. ​

Newly returned from war, Bennett holds a secret and will do anything to ensure Emily, his only true love, never discovers it...even if it means . . . [read more]

At the Christmas Eve masquerade ball, Evelyn plans to lure the charming and handsome Michael underneath the mistletoe and show him just how much she likes him. With a single, earth-shattering kiss, she's certain he'll finally realize she's the only girl for him. Little does she know, her childhood friend, Colin, has the same plans for Evelyn. Neither her crush on another man, nor her near escape from falling through the ice in a frozen pond will stand in Colin's way. . . [read more]

As always, happy reading! :)

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