V&A trail: Christmas

Produced as part of Christmas 2021

Take our virtual family trail to uncover Christmassy highlights in our collection. Discover all sorts of festive objects – from big to small, beautiful to unusual – and some that are hundreds of years old! Are you ready to start exploring?

Stop 1: Gingerbread mould, 1795

Brown oval shaped piece of wood with a sheep and leaf patterns engraved in it.
Culinary mould, unknown maker, 1795, Germany. Museum no. 121:1&2-1906. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Can you imagine the delicious smell of freshly baked gingerbread? This mould was made in Germany – from the wood of a pear tree – and would have been used to stamp gingerbread dough with a lamb design before baking it. Can you find the date in the engraving to see when the mould was made?

Traditionally gingerbread was a Christmas or Easter treat, and it can be made into many things. How many can you think of? Perhaps a gingerbread man or a gingerbread house? Have a go at drawing your own gingerbread mould design.

Stop 2: The Nativity, stained glass panel, about 1522 – 26

Stained glass window showing a nativity scene with Mary and angels around baby Jesus
The Nativity stained glass panel, Everhard Rensig and Gerhard Remisch, about 1522 – 26, Germany. Museum no. C.301-1928. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This colourful stained glass panel is almost 500 years old. To make it, the artists would have fixed together painted pieces of glass using melted metal. When light shines through the panel, all the colours glow.

The nativity scene here shows the night baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Can you name any of the figures surrounding him? What other festive symbols could be turned into a stained glass piece? Can you draw your own idea for a stained glass design?

Stop 3: Father Christmas biscuit tin, 1936

Biscuit tin with a scene of Father Christmas on the lid. Images of children on the side, and a snowman
Biscuit tin and lid, W & R Jacob and Co., 1936, England. Museum no. M.487&A-1983. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

See Father Christmas smiling at you with his sack of toys. His portrait is printed on the lid of this Christmas biscuit tin which was made more than 80 years ago.

The tin was decorated to appeal to children like you. What do you think of it? Can you find a tin or a box at home that you could decorate? What kind of treats would you keep inside?

Stop 4: Mistletoe brooch, 1903

Gold and silver brooch with a relief of young women, framed by diamonds and decorated with a sprig of mistletoe in enamelled gold and pearls. Also shows reverse of brooch with pin
Gold and silver brooch with pearls and diamonds, Georges Fouquet, 1903, France. Museum no. M.19-1979. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Mistletoe is an evergreen plant that lives on other trees. It is often thought of as a Christmas plant because it is decorative and covered in white berries at this time of the year. This brooch contains a golden sprig of mistletoe – can you tell what the berries are made of?

A piece of jewellery like this would have added sparkle to someone's outfit for a special occasion, such as Christmas dinner! As the Christmas tradition goes, perhaps it would have even helped its owner to steal a kiss. Are you going to wear anything that sparkles this Christmas?

Stop 5: A Village Choir, painting, 1847

Painting of people in a church singing
A Village Choir, Thomas Webster, 1847, England. Museum no. FA.222[O]. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Welcome to the village choir's Christmas concert! The people in this lively painting have gathered on Christmas Day to play music, sing Christmas carols and be merry together. Carol singing became very popular in Victorian times when this scene was painted. For many families it continues to be a favourite festive activity. What Christmas songs do you sing at home or in school? Which one is your favourite?

Stop 6: Partridge cup, 1598 – 1602

Silver-gilt, gold, gems and mother-of-pearl cup in the form of a partridge with feathers of overlapping mother of pearl; removable head with gem set eyes, standing on an octagonal plinth.
Cup, Georg Rühl, 1598 – 1602, Germany. Museum no. LOAN:GILBERT.60:1, 2-2008. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This seems like an extraordinarily unusual object! It is over 400 years old and is made of silver, gold, and a shell-like material called mother of pearl. What do you think it was used for? If you take a closer look at the details, you will notice that this lifelike bird is actually a cup, and its head is a lid! Can you guess what type of bird it is? It's a partridge – just like the partridge sitting in the pear tree in the carol 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'. Can you sing it?

Well done for completing our virtual festive trail. We wish you a very merry Christmas!

Remember to share your drawings and designs with us using #VamFamilies.

Background image: Biscuit tin and lid, W & R Jacob and Co., 1936, England. Museum no. M.487&A-1983. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London