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Victorian Christmas

The following items are from the Middlesex & Surrey Express of 21 December 1901.


There follow suggestions as how to carry off a successful Christmas party for children, covering games (such as peripatetic potatoes), suitable prizes (a penny pencil with a protective slide, a thimble), food 'sandwiches of various sorts - cress, potted meat and hardboiled eggs' and jokes: why are birds sad in the morning? Because their bills are all over due (dew). More in this vein later...

The next column is headed


Here are recipes for Christmas dinner: 'Of course the menu will include turkey, roast or boiled'.

Cooking times are surprisingly short - the turkey 'will probably take from one and a half to two hours to roast' and includes a fore-runner to pigs in blankets: 'small rolls of bacon and fried sausages cut into neat rounds about a quarter of an inch thick'. Those who like their turkey boiled had to wait just 'one hour and a quarter to one and a half, according as its weight varies from 6lb to 10lb. It is usually dished with oyster sauce.' The recipe for oyster sauce is vague but notes you need to remove their beards.

A final option - Turkey a la Milan - involves trussing the bird, wrapping it in ham, stuffing its orifices, sewing it into a white cloth, boiling it for the requisite time then leaving it in the cloth 'until quite cold'. The original cold turkey.

The two Christmas pudding recipes are more specific with the first needing around a stone (14lb) of ingredients. 'Boil in a cloth for six hours'.

The following shows the lengths one could go to ...


The Chinese have a choice dish, made as follows. Egg-shells are filled, through tiny holes at each end, with liquid custard, plugged, then steamed until cooked. When opened, one is full of rose custard, flavoured with rose; another of chocolate, and so on, each being different in colour and flavour. Such a dish will meet with the entire approbation of the young folks at a Christmas party supper.



An ingenious hostess provided no little amusement for her guests by what she called her "Snowdrift Party." This is how it is arranged: First of all select from a good book of quotations or proverbs twenty sentences applicable to snow. Write these twenty sentences on twenty cards, one verse to each card, and number them with the numbers from one to twenty. Now get together a half-dozen pasteboard or wooden boxes, and fill these with flakes of cotton-wool or white paper torn into pieces. Hide the quotation cards away in the snow thus formed. Each guest receives a wooden teaspoon, tied with a ribbon, a note-book and pencil. The boxes are distinguished by letters or numbers painted upon them, and lots are drawn to determine in which "snowdrift" each guest shall dig. The digging is, ofcourse, done with the spoons.

Each player digs in the snow, turning it up spoonful by spoonful, until he discovers a card. When a card is found the quotation upon it must be read and name of the author, if recognised, written down. Each author's name should be placed in the note-book opposite the number of the card, in order to facilitate the work of the person who reads the lists to decide the prize. The cards, whether the author is known or not, are always returned to the box and hidden away in the snow.

At the end of fifteen minutes, work ceases and the diggers begin on new drifts. This changing is done every fifteen minutes, a player digging always in a new snow bank until the number of boxes is exhausted. When the games reaches this stage all note-books or tablets are collected by the mistress of the ceremonies, She compares the answers in the note-books with her own lists, previously prepared. Incorrect guesses are pruned away with a blue pencil, and the correct ones counted. It is, of course, the player who has most of these last who carries off the trophy. The prize should be in some way commemorative of the occasion.


Why did the accession of Victoria throw a greater damp over England than the death of King William?
Because the king was missed (mist) while the Queen was reigning (raining).

Why should a gouty man make his will?
To have his legatees (leg at ease).

How do bees dispose of their honey?
They cell it.

Why is a Welsh garden like a wether-beaten old ship?
Because it is pretty sure to have several leaks (leeks) in it.

What tree does the reader most resemble?
Yew (you).

What is a muff?
Something that holds a lady's hand and doesn't squeeze it.

Why is an umbrella like a hot-cross bun?
Because it is never seen after lent.

Why are there fewer large trees in Scotland than there might be?
Because so many of the Scots " cut their sticks" when young.


Published December 2019