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Grace Fleming

A Christmas Tree in 1850

By November 28, 2008

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Have you ever wondered what a Christmas tree might have looked like in 1850? One of the reasons I like to read literature is because it enables me to learn so much about everyday life in years past. Charles Dickens wrote many essays and short stories about Christmas, including “A Christmas Tree” which he penned in 1850.

It's interesting (and a little surprising) to read over the list of ornaments that hung from the tree. And just so you know, tapers are thin candles:

The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects. There were rosy-cheeked dolls, hiding behind the green leaves; and there were real watches (with movable hands, at least, and an endless capacity of being wound up) dangling from innumerable twigs; there were French-polished tables, chairs, bedsteads, wardrobes, eight-day clocks, and various other articles of domestic furniture (wonderfully made, in tin, at Wolverhampton), perched among the boughs, as if in preparation for some fairy housekeeping; there were jolly, broad-faced little men, much more agreeable in appearance than many real men—and no wonder, for their heads took off, and showed them to be full of sugar-plums; there were fiddles and drums; there were tambourines, books, work-boxes, paint-boxes, sweetmeat-boxes, peep-show boxes, and all kinds of boxes; there were trinkets for the elder girls, far brighter than any grown-up gold and jewels; there were baskets and pincushions in all devices; there were guns, swords, and banners; there were witches standing in enchanted rings of pasteboard, to tell fortunes; there were teetotums, humming-tops, needle-cases, pen-wipers, smelling-bottles, conversation-cards, bouquet-holders; real fruit, made artificially dazzling with gold leaf; imitation apples, pears, and walnuts, crammed with surprises…

See how you can learn some interesting stuff while you're reading over the holidays? You can read the full text of A Christmas Tree now!

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