TRACEY TONG/METRO OTTAWA
Sometimes, it’s difficult to spot any semblance between the hustle and bustle of the holiday season in Ottawa circa 2007 and a Victorian Christmas in Bytown.
But there are more similarities between the two than we think, says the manager of programs at the Bytown Museum.
Many holiday traditions that Ottawans uphold today harkens to the Victorian era, said Steve Dezort, from food to decorations, even to Christmas trees.
“It was the 1850s and 1860s that people in the English-speaking world started to use Christmas trees,” said Dezort.
The use of trees were introduced to the British by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, who brought the tradition from his native Germany. Dezort and museum staff and volunteers explained this, and other Christmas trivia, to visitors at the annual Bytown Victorian Christmas event hosted by the Bytown Museum yesterday.
“We’re trying to focus on simple things from another time — to connect to a time that wasn’t a culture of convenience,” said museum volunteer Eric Chor.
Attendees took shelter from the cold to sample apple cider, make Christmas stockings, decorate gingerbread men and string popcorn and cranberry garlands. The event allowed people to reflect on the Christmases of Ottawa’s past, said Dezort. And some were surprised at how many traditions come from that era.
“People of all ages are learning things,” said Cara Pelletier, a student in the Algonquin College applied museum studies program.
“It’s important to remember where you came from,” she said. “Traditions are easily lost for something newer and flashier. And it makes you appreciate what you have now.”
“Back then, the Christmas season was the beginning of winter, when everyone slowed down,” said Dezort. “The harvest was in and people took time with their families and to relax and reflect. Today, Christmas has a lot more stress attached to it.”