A Pioneer Christmas 1850s Style

Imagine arriving on an immigrant ship at Melbourne or Portland  in December.  After enduring the arduous voyage for months, passengers would have set foot in their new country faced with an Australian summer and then  reminded Christmas was just around the corner.   The Mortimer family arrived in Melbourne from England on December 14, 1852,  just 11 days before Christmas.  Having known only a cold and maybe white Christmas and possibly having lost track of the months, they may have felt a little confused.

Judging by the newspapers of the 1850s, however, it seems that the new arrivals embraced the “new” Christmas of clear skies and sun and a chance to get outside and enjoy the day.

ARRIVAL OF HIS EXCELLENCY SIR H. BARKLY. (1856, December 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 4. Retrieved December 15, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article7142206

GEELONG. (1858, December 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 6. Retrieved December 15, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article7307009

CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS. (1859, December 27). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), p. 1 Supplement: SUPPLEMENT TO THE STAR.. Retrieved December 13, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72463975

On Christmas Eve, 1859, Main Road Ballarat was abuzz with activity.

CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS. (1859, December 27). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), p. 1 Supplement: SUPPLEMENT TO THE STAR.. Retrieved December 15, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72463975

As well as shopping for ducks, geese and turkey for Christmas lunch, some last minute Christmas shopping could be done at Miss Kitchen’s Fancy Toy Warehouse or Rees and Benjamin Watchmakers and Jewellers.

Advertising. (1859, December 17). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), p. 3. Retrieved December 13, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72463876

Advertising. (1859, December 20). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), p. 1. Retrieved December 13, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72463910

In Portland, shoppers may have spent Christmas eve with their fingers crossed for the draw of the Christmas cake lottery at Holmes Confectioners in Gawler Street.

Advertising. (1859, December 19). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 3 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved December 15, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64512997

Not everyone was enjoying the new style of Christmas.  In 1859, the editor of  The Argus lamented that Christmas was not the same in Australia without the snow and mistletoe.  I like his prediction that in one hundred years,  Australians will have forgotten the “old” Christmas and have given Christmas a new feel with eucalyptus and acacia decking the halls.  If only he could see Christmas now as he would see that many of the English traditions of Christmas still exist and we still grapple with the idea of a hot lunch on a hot day,  but we just do it anyway.  The tradition continues.

(1859, December 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 4. Retrieved December 16, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page198773

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