Christmas Past 2016 at the Geffrye

400 Years of Seasonal Traditions in English Homes

Geffrye Museum
136 Kingsland Road
London
E2 8EA
www.geffrye-museum.org.uk 

Tuesday 22 November 2016 – Sunday 8 January 2017.

Exterior of the Geffrye at Christmas. Photo: Steve Speller

The exterior of the Geffrye Museum at dusk showing the tree lit for Christmas Past

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.

A view of the 1630 period room at Christmas Past. The photograph sows the table laid for a feast of sweetmeats and the mantel above the fireplace decorated with evergreens.

A view of the 1630 period room at Christmas Past. The photograph sows the table laid for a feast of sweetmeats and the mantel above the fireplace decorated with evergreens.

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.

This is the current room display, decorated for Christmas Past 2008. Detail of a drawing room in 1890 at Christmas Past.

This is the current room display, decorated for Christmas Past 2008.
Detail of a drawing room in 1890 at Christmas Past.

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.

Christmas Past at the Geffrye. 1965 Living Room. Photo: Chris Ridley

Christmas Past at the Geffrye. 1965 Living Room. Photo: Chris Ridley

RELATED EVENTS

 Adults

For ticketed events, please book at www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/whatson/book-tickets/, 020 7749 6024 or bookings@geffrye-museum.org.uk

Workshop: Seasonal Decorations
Create colourful, unique Christmas decoration using a variety of felt-making techniques.
Saturday 19 November, 10.30am-4.30pm
Tickets £35, £30 concs (includes all materials)

Workshop: Christmas Greenery
Join the Geffrye gardeners to create a festive decoration with fresh greenery.
Friday 9 December and Saturday 10 December, 1.30 – 4.30pm
Tickets £50, £45 concs (includes short talk, workshop and all materials)

 Exhibition talk: Christmas Past in Focus
Explore Victorian Christmas traditions in this informal talk with our curator.
Saturday 10 December, 11.30am and repeated at 3pm. Free

Concert by Candlelight
A moving recital of a cappella Christmas music by acclaimed group Bocca Aperta.
Wednesday 14 December.  Museum opens at 7.30pm, concert 8pm.
Tickets £20/£17 concs (includes a glass of sherry or port and a mince pie)

All ages

Christmas Present – Hidden Art pop-up at the Geffrye
A special Christmas pop-up shop featuring work by talented young makers from Hidden Art – perfect for unique Christmas gifts.
Tuesday 22 November to Sunday 11 December, 10am-5pm (closed Mondays)

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.
Thursday 1 December
Thursday 15 December (Crafty Fox fair only)
5-9pm.  Free

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.
Friday 6 January, 3.30-5pm. Free

Children

‘O Christmas Tree’ (ages 2-16)
Create Crazy Christmas decorations for your tree.
Saturday 12 December, 10.30am-12.30pm and 2-4pm
Free.  Places first come, first served 30 minutes in advance

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