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The figure of Father Christmas evolved considerably throughout the 19th century. At the start, this personification of festive traditions was known as 'Old Father Christmas': a thin, gaunt man who advocated merry-making and drinking among adults. By the mid-late century, however, his role and apearance had been transformed as revealed by this illustration from the 1874 Christmas edition of the Graphic newspaper. He had acquired the now-familiar rotund belly, red robes and black boots, and was by now associated with the giving of presents.
Simon Callow explores Charles Dickens’s depiction of the Christmas feast and investigates the origins of England’s festive culinary traditions.
Judith Flanders describes how many of our own Christmas traditions – from trees and crackers to cards and carols – have their origins in 19th-century industrial and commercial interests.
Professor John Sutherland considers how Dickens’s A Christmas Carol engages with Victorian attitudes towards poverty, labour and the Christmas spirit.