A Victorian Christmas in 1860

from Godey's Ladys Book

Christmas in the City and Country Rival Claims

"The suburban life of our great cities is a marked social feature of the day; the taste for the quiet domestic pursuits, which naturally spring up in the abundant leisure of the country, contest their place warmly with the fashion and gaiety of the town. Every year more families give up their city residences, and, save a month or two at some hotel, or with friends who are glad enough to return the compliment when summer comes, pass the year out of the sight of bricks and mortar. They certainly have fewer excuses, if they do not live "a sober, righteous, and godly life," than those who are drawn more or less into the vortex of "society," under which we include party-giving and party-going, shopping, calling, the opera, the concert - all that envious people sum up with the convenient title of "city dissipation. "



"City people, in the mean time, shrug their shoulders, and wonder what people can possibly find to do with themselves, and look on their "country cousins" as the victims of routine, and narrow-mindedness, and general stupidity!"


"We present these rival claims in what may be supposed to be the chief enjoyment of each separate life. Christmas, the general holiday, has its charms for each. In town there is much consultation as to toilet, for though the children absorb the morning, and it is proper to be seen at church, it is not less certain that the intimate male gentlemen friends of the family will make their appearance by the time a demi-toilet can be dispatched, a little rehearsal of the general reception that marks the New Year. There are symptoms of it in the well spread lunch table of the luxurious drawing-room, in the impromptu grouping of ladies of the house with the first tinkle of the door bell, and its enjoyment culminates in the entrance of "the coming man," who "takes the liberty of bringing his friend Marks," already well known in society an "superb in the German."


"Their country cousins, meantime, have already dined! -unfashionable creatures - and enjoyed with keen appetites the ample bountiful Christmas dinner the barn yard, and the garden's latest gifts of crisp celery, winter vegetables and fruit, have contributed to the making of the ten best holiday recipes. The air is keen and clear, the sky unclouded sapphire, the roads in their prime of sleighing from yesterday's travel over the last cheerful snow storm. They, too, have "gentlemen friends" who are only too happy to pay their devoirs in the clear open air, and in much merriment the sleighing party is made up, to dash along with chiming bells, and song and laughter. An upset now and then is counted in with the amusements of the day, so that no one is hurt, and who ever is? - by a fall into a yielding snowbank!"

"We leave our lady friends to choose for themselves in which scene lies the best opportunity for amusement and - a proposal!"