On this side of the living room we’re going to talk about Christmas traditions during the Victorian Era, roughly the years 1870 to 1900. The era is named after Queen Victoria of England, who reigned over the British Empire from 1837 to 1901.
The Victorian Era saw a lot of changes occur at Oak View. In 1870 Benton Williams passed away, and his wife Burchette died in 1886. After her death, Oak View was sold to two Raleigh businessmen, Job P. Wyatt and Phillip Taylor, and by 1900 Mr. Wyatt was the sole owner. He ran the farm as a business and lived with his family in downtown Raleigh. Mr. Wyatt hired a manager to take care of the farm and live in this house, while much of the work was done by tenant farmers who lived in small houses nearby.
The Christmas tree became a part of America’s holiday decorations during the Victorian Era. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, was from Germany, where the Christmas tree was an established tradition. When Queen Victoria began decorating a Christmas tree, the trend spread quickly throughout Europe and America. Although one in five American homes decorated a Christmas tree by 1900, they were still uncommon on rural farms like Oak View. It’s more likely the tree you see here would have been in Job P. Wyatt’s downtown Raleigh home rather than here on this farm.
Real candles would have been used to light the Christmas tree. They were probably only lit on Christmas Eve for a few hours, and most homes would have a bucket of water or sand nearby just in case an accident happened. Since tape hadn’t yet been invented, gift wrap was held on presents by straight pins, velvet ribbon, or sealing wax. Small gifts might be hung on the tree, or placed on a dinner plate before the Christmas meal.
The tradition of mailing Christmas cards also began during the Victorian Era. They became so popular that by 1900 the Postal Service had trouble keeping up with all the mail sent out the week before Christmas. Fortunately, a great idea helped solve this problem: a mailing label that read “Do Not Open Until Christmas!” This allowed cards and packages to be mailed weeks before Christmas.
Please walk across the foyer to the next room in the Main House. Once there, please enter the number ‘54’ to continue.