Merry glow of times past

In an age of austerity, Christmas traditions, many of them inspired by previous generations of royals, become ever more comforting


As families around Britain are contemplating how to orchestrate their Christmas get-togethers, it seems that the Windsors, who usually celebrate at Sandringham, the Queen’s Norfolk retreat, have similar concerns.


“Her Majesty looks forward to the festivities immensely, this being the only time of the busy royal year that all four of her children, their spouses and most of her grandchildren are under the same roof for a few days,” says Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine.


And, according to The Royal Encyclopaedia, the authorised book on the royals, Christmas Day with the Windsors is fairly similar to that spent by families around the country. After church and lunch they sit down together to watch the Queen’s Christmas broadcast.


As austerity bites deeper, more of us are expected to turn to the comforting thoughts of a traditional Christmas. Queen Victoria’s family set the style of our celebrations: the children were known to make Christmas cards while Prince Albert popularised decorated trees and drove his wife around the grounds of Windsor Castle in a horse-drawn sleigh (although Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III, may have stolen his thunder as she is also credited with introducing Christmas trees to the royal family).


Royal warrant holders are also picking up on our yearning for times past.


“This year it certainly seems that people want nostalgia,” says Jenifer Emery, director of florist Edward Goodyear. “In difficult times people feel more secure with a traditional Christmas, which includes Victorian themes.”


The feeling is manifesting itself in this year’s trend for garlands of foliage on our mantelpieces and banisters, featuring cinnamon sticks and dried roses. And we are turning to those old favourites, oranges and cloves to scent our homes, says Emery.


Our search for a guaranteed feel-good factor is also reflected in our gift-buying, says Caroline Stacpoole, owner of the General Trading Company.


“So far we’ve seen that our customers are buying and looking for more traditional gifts for the family, home and pets,” she says, adding that retro-style toys, such as a sit-on-and-ride car, are proving popular.


At radio specialists Roberts, marketing director Owen Waters says that its 1950s-theme Revival radio continues to win fans. And nostalgia will also influence how we dress to celebrate this Christmas, says Genevieve Lawson, design director of accessories specialist Cornelia James.


“The British are embracing the timeless qualities of classic style and heritage glamour,” she says, adding that evening gloves and faux fur shrugs are proving popular.


Not that people are going out as much. “Everyone is looking to the hearth and home,” says Annie Quigley, director of mail order book company Bibliophile. “And people are looking for ideas for homemade gifts, such as chutneys and preserves.”


At cheesemongers Paxton & Whitfield managing director Ros Windsor finds that trusted favourites are popular this year.


“We’ve seen that our customers are asking about more traditional cheeses such as great artisan examples of Stilton and Cheddar,” she says. “This is what they have grown up eating at Christmas and they like to continue this tradition.”


Nostalgia, Christmas and royal custom are being rolled into a new truffle at chocolate manufacturer Charbonnel et Walker which has linked up with wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd to create a truffle infused with the King’s Ginger, a liqueur formulated for King Edward VII in 1909.


“It has appealed to customers as it is a collaboration between two long-established brands and warrant holders,” says Victoria Leadbitter of Charbonnel et Walker.


From Christmas trees to chocolates, the great British Christmas remains a nostalgic, royal-inspired affair.