Each year, authentic festive decorations, lighting, music and greenery transform the Geffrye Museum’s period living rooms, giving visitors an evocative insight into how Christmas has been celebrated from 1600 to the present day.
Christmas Past has taken place at the Geffrye for over 25 years and for many visitors, a trip to the show has become an essential part of their own Christmas rituals.
The exhibition brings to life the origins and meanings of many of the rich and vibrant traditions of Christmas past, from feasting, dancing and kissing under the mistletoe to playing parlour games, decorating the tree, hanging up stockings, sending cards, and throwing cocktail parties.
It also highlights how the popularity of Christmas has waxed and waned through the centuries. The hedonistic festivities of the early 17th century were banned by the Puritans in the middle of the century. After the ban lifted in 1660, Christmas continued to be rather a subdued affair up until the early 19th century when it began to enjoy a revival. Early traditions reappeared together with new parlour entertainments such as blind man’s buff, snap dragon and charade-like character games. However, it was during the reign of Queen Victoria that Christmas really came back with a bang with the introduction of many traditions we are familiar with today such as decorating a fir tree and putting children at the centre of the festivities.
Christmas Past will be accompanied by a full programme of events including craft fairs, festive evenings, carol singing and decoration workshops. Throughout the show, festive food and drinks will be on offer in the café and the shop will be stocked full of Christmas decorations and cards, unusual gifts, stylish homewares and treats.
19 November 2016, 10.30-16.30
Workshop: Seasonal Decorations
£35.00 includes materials. £30.00 concessions available
Create colourful, unique Christmas decoration using a variety of felt-making techniques.
1, 15 December 2016, 17.00-21.00
Festive Open Evenings
Kick off your Christmas celebrations with the popular Crafty Fox Christmas market, craft activities for children and adults, greenery demonstrations, seasonal talks, music, a bar and street food.
9, 10 December 2016, 13.30-16.30
Workshop: Christmas Greenery
£50.00, £45.00 concessions available (includes short talk, workshop and materials)
Join the Geffrye gardeners to create a festive decoration with fresh greenery.
10 December 2016, 11.30, 15.00
Exhibition talk: Christmas Past in Focus
Explore Victorian Christmas traditions in this informal talk with the Geffrye Museum curator.
12 December 2016, 10.30-12.30, 14.00-16.00
‘O Christmas Tree’ (ages 2-16)
Free - Places first come, first served 30 minutes in advance
Create Crazy Christmas tree decorations to hang in your home.
14 December 2016, 20.00
Concert by Candlelight
£20.00, £17.00 concessions available (includes a glass of sherry or port and a mince pie)
A moving recital of a cappella Christmas music by acclaimed group Bocca Aperta.
6 January 2017, 15.30-17.00
Farewell to Christmas
Wrap up warm and join us in the gardens for the Geffrye’s own tradition of burning the holly and ivy, with carol singing, Epiphany stories and a taste of mulled wine and Twelfth Night cake.