Victoria and Albert’s Christmas Surprises



December 17, 2020

What do you love about Christmas? Did you know that many of our favourite Christmas traditions started in the time of Queen Victoria? Join Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as they explore some new Christmas traditions in this interactive short film. Make sure you join in and bow or curtsey to the Queen!

Now you have watched the film, here is a little more about these wonderful Christmas traditions!

The Christmas Card

Henry Cole, the founder of V&A, invented the Christmas card in 1843. Before Christmas cards, people wrote Christmas letters to their family and friends, which meant there was a lot of writing to do! Henry Cole asked an artist, called John Horsley, to create an illustration for his card. There was a printed message on it that said: ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you’.

Christmas card to Sir Henry Cole, designed by John Callcott Horsley, 1843. Museum no. MSL/1987/3293 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Queen Victoria liked making her own cards with her children. Have you made or designed any Christmas cards this year? Share them with us #VamFamilies

A Christmas Story

What’s your favourite Christmas story? A Christmas Carol (the one with Scrooge in it!) by Charles Dickens was first published in 1843. Victorian families enjoyed reading it every Christmas. Nowadays at Christmas there is often a theatre show or a film version to watch – but you might like to find a copy of the book. Do you know which ghost this puppet is? It’s the Ghost of Christmas present!

Ghost of Christmas Present puppet, made by Frances and Peter Grant, 1979 – 80. Museum no.
S.942-2011 © Image Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Christmas Tree

The tradition of having a Christmas tree in the home began in Germany, where Prince Albert was born. There is a picture of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children around a big Christmas tree. This was published in 1848 and after that everyone wanted to have a tree, just like theirs.

We hope you enjoy the film. Let us know what you think #vamfamilies

‘The Christmas Tree’ from The Little Sister by Mrs. Harriet Myrtle by Lydia Falconer Miller, illustrations by H.J. Schneider (1811 – 84), 1852 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Find out more

The First Christmas Card

Victorian Christmas Traditions

Victoria and Albert’s Christmas Surprises was adapted from V&A Families Pop-up Performances by Astrid Hilne and Gillian Brownson.

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