Christmas in Leamington, 1873 Style

Christmas Lights on The Parade.
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © David Stowell. Originally uploaded to geograph

So it’s Christmas time, the shops are busy, it’s all about buying stuff, right? What’s happened to the true meaning of Christmas, I hear you cry!

Well, the December 27th edition of the Leamington Courier in 1873 suggests that, although the presentation may be rather different now, there’s still a certain amount of retail activity that went on at that time.

‘The Streets! The Shops! The Fare!’

That’s how the …Courier began its Christmas review. A rather wordy correspondent (‘Gloria mundi fumus‘ indeed!) toured the streets reviewing what the shops were offering. The range of wares on offer was vast. It appeared that if you wanted fine art, tobacco, carpets, curtains, groceries, toys… this was the show to visit! The music on offer seems to be of more ‘traditional’ fare than now, however – no Cliff Richard here! Instead there is an emphasis on the religious nature of the season.

Ale was on offer too, so the festivities seem to have been as much about eating and drinking as nowadays. “Who could pass Rocs’ famous establishment without stopping to admire his show of ‘birds of the season,’ geese and turkeys,” gushes the …Courier. Who indeed? Meanwhile, the reporter also remarks upon “how many wistful glances were cast at the dolls at Heritage’s Bazaar by the young folks.” Toys, then, as a Christmas gift to provide festive entertainment seem to have been just as appropriate then as now.

A seasonal present

In 1873 however, “a piano has come to be regarded as pretty well a household necessity.” Therefore, Mr Aubrey’s pianos are seen as an ideal seasonal present. Nowadays that certainly isn’t the case. We consume plenty of music via different media. What’s a household necessity nowadays in the same way? A television? A tablet? What would be the equivalent seasonal present? Society changes and moves on, that’s for sure.

As for clothing, a window model “was attired in evening-dress of cerise satin, trimmed with white lace.” Anybody who knows me will happily confirm I am no style icon, but this doesn’t sound like a present day outfit, or something worth buying for those close to you. Maybe I’m wrong?

A fine Christmas show

Whether it’s a sewing machine, a handkerchief, or a bow for archery, it seems Leamington was the place to find a gift in 1873. Still, today, we go round the shops, late-night shopping, looking for things to show we care, to mark the time of year. Online shopping may alter that slightly, but Christmas markets, much as Leamington in the past, fill a gap with the social meeting up with friends to eat, drink… and smile.

But what has Christmas meant to you over the years? How have you marked it? it might be very different but, if you have memories of Christmas past, do please share them in the comments section.

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