400 Years of Seasonal Traditions in English Homes

Tuesday 24 November 2015 – Sunday 3 January 2016
Geffrye Museum
136 Kingsland Road
E2 8EA.

Open:   Tuesday – Sunday & Bank Holiday Mondays 10am – 5pm

Closed: 24, 25, 26 Dec 2015 and 1 January 2016 check for full details of Christmas opening

Free entry

by Dieneke Ferguson

For me the Christmas preparations are really starting after having visited the annual Christmas Past exhibition at the Geffrye Museum.

Christmas Past 2015 at Geffrye Museum. 1830s Drawing Room

Christmas Past 2015 at Geffrye Museum. 1830s Drawing Room

Each year for the last 25 years, the Geffrye Museum’s period living rooms are transformed with authentic festive decorations, lighting, music and greenery, to illustrate how Christmas has been celebrated over the past 400 years.

The exhibition shows many of the rich and vibrant traditions of Christmas past, from feasting, dancing and kissing under the mistletoe to playing parlour games, hanging up stockings, sending cards, decorating the tree and throwing cocktail parties.

Christmas Past 2015 at Geffrye Museum. 1890s Drawing Room

Christmas Past 2015 at Geffrye Museum. 1890s Drawing Room

Each period room highlights some of the customs of the period. So Christmas was banned in the mid-17th century by Parliament which was dominated by the Puritans who disapproved of the excessive eating, drinking and gambling the season encouraged.  Although reinstated in 1660, Christmas was a subdued affair – a pale shadow of its former glory – until the early 19th century when it began to enjoy a revival.

However, it was during the reign of Queen Victoria that Christmas really came back with a vengeance, introducing many of the customs we are familiar with today, such as decorating a fir tree for the home and putting children at the centre of the festivities.

Living Room in 1965 at Christmas Past, Geffrye Museum 2015. Photo: Chris Ridley.

Living Room in 1965 at Christmas Past, Geffrye Museum 2015. Photo: Chris Ridley.


Ticketed events must be booked in advance:, or 020 7749 6024


Open Evening: A 17th Century Christmas
Thursday 3 December, 5-8pm.  Free
Enjoy Christmas Past by candlelight,  festive music, learn about seasonal traditions or bring children to a greenery crown-making workshop.

Workshop:  Christmas Greenery
Friday 11 December, 2-5pm and Saturday 12 December, 1.30-4.30pm
Tickets £50, £45 concs (includes short talk, workshop and materials)
Join the Geffrye gardeners to create a 17th-century-inspired festive decoration with fresh greenery

Exhibition talk:  Christmas Past in Focus
Saturday 12 December, 11.30am and repeated at 3pm.  Free
Explore 17th century Christmas traditions in this informal talk.

Crafty Fox Night Market: Christmas shopping with soul
Thursday 17 December, 4-9pm.  Free
Design-led, handmade products sold directly by the makers including creative workshops, DJs, a cafe and bar.

Farewell to Christmas
Wednesday 6 January, 3.30-5pm.  Free
Wrap up warm and join the Geffrye in the gardens for the Geffrye’s own tradition of burning the holly and the ivy, with carol singing, stories about Epiphany and a taste of mulled wine and Twelfth Night cake.


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