Above: Jane Austen’s House and Museum at Christmas.
Everything is constantly evolving and nothing ever stays the same – from our use of language to the way we celebrate Christmas. Today in most homes the kitchen is the hub of activity throughout the year and even more so at Christmas – where everyone wants to gather and if you are lucky, to join in and help with the preparations.
Our Beau-Port showroom is located close to Jane Austen’s House and Museum, and to what was her brother’s home, Chawton House. Christmas for Jane Austen and her family and friends was a much lower key event than the season we celebrate today. It had not yet developed into the elaborate festival known to the Victorians and was much more of a religious occasion.
They still had specific Christmas fare including mince pies, but not as we know them today – they did actually contain some meat! Turkey was part of the Christmas Fare but not the focal point it is today and roast goose and veal were popular too. Jane Austen talks about black butter in one of her letters and other culinary Christmas delights for the Austen’s would have included rum butter, Christmas bread, plum-porridge, boar’s head, sago or millet puddings.
Decorations in the Austen household would have been natural and understated, with dried oranges and cinnamon sticks hung in garlands and holly and seasonal greenery to add further decoration.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were illustrated in the London News in 1846 standing around a Christmas tree with their children. As popular monarchs the people of England instantly adopted this idea, with the taller the tree the greater the social status of the family. Christmas cards evolved around this time as a more practical way of sending greetings to large numbers of friends and family instead of having to write individual letters to everyone – the only means of communication at that time. Today some people just send e-cards, but somehow they don’t hold the same significance, although we can understand why this has been adopted when we see the rising cost of postage with the stamp often costing more than the card!
So moving on to Edwardian times – if you want to experience how an Edwardian Christmas looked and felt and you are in our area, then just pop along to Chawton House on Sunday, 8th December to experience an Edwardian Christmas from 10 am – 3pm where there will be magic lantern show, music boxes, Christmas displays, seasonal surprises and each room decorated in true Edwardian Christmas style.
The kitchen at Chawton House, as it would have looked in Jane Austen’s day, is in a style that many of us would still love to have today. In some ways many things have changed but this authentic traditional style of kitchen is still popular today – perhaps with the addition of our modern labour-saving appliance! But take a look at the furniture and the beautiful range – our modern-day Shaker style kitchens and modern ranges – especially our AGA ranges are not so very different in appearance and are the perfect option for those who want the traditional kitchen that makes the perfect hub for the festive season.