Find out how Christmas has been celebrated over the centuries in The Geffrye Museum’s evocative exhibition, Christmas Past.
Step back in time and find out how Christmas has been celebrated over the centuries. Sam Rogg feels festive as she visits The Geffrye Museum to discover the origins of crackers, cards and kissing under the mistletoe
For millions of people around the world, Christmas Day is a time to gather with friends and family at home, often in a living room adorned with decorations.
It’s a ritual that has remained the same for centuries in the UK while our houses, living rooms, decorations and festive traditions continue to modernise and evolve. This festive season, step back through time at
The Geffrye Museum and experience how Christmas has been celebrated over 400 years.
Set within beautiful 18th-century almshouse buildings in fashionable east London, this unique museum houses a series of period rooms, decorated and furnished in the style of different eras, from 1600 to the present day.
For most of the year, these displays represent typical English middle-class living rooms through the ages, but as the festive season approaches they take on a holiday glow for ChristmasPast:400YearsofSeasonal TraditionsinEnglishHomes (to 8 Jan). As you make your way around, bear in mind the type of homeowners who would have occupied these rooms. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they would have been doctors, merchants, financiers and lawyers; by the 19th century, people working in business and manufacturing; and in the 20th century, people from a range of sectors, including finance, architecture and the creative industries.
A small introduction describes a typical town house of the time, including the type of furniture and furnishings and the main changes in the style of English homes. Take a seat on a replica chair as you make your way through the 11 period rooms and transport your mind back to days gone by. Along the way, you’ll see authentic festive decorations, lighting and greenery and hear traditional music from each period. Discover the origins and meanings of Christmas traditions such as feasting, dancing and kissing under the mistletoe.
In which year did we start hanging up stockings? When did we start sending Christmas cards to loved ones? What games did our ancestors play? All these questions and more are answered in this free exhibition.
Look out for subtle changes in the decoration of a traditional Christmas tree and get some retro inspiration for your cocktail parties back home. Loved by Londoners and visitors to the capital alike, this exhibition will fill you with festive cheer. For full listing, turn to p. 42
Clockwise from this image: a drawing room from 1910; decorations from 1935; a drawing room from 1830; a living room from 1930