The Yorkshire Craft Centre offered an entertaining escape from the excesses and pressures of a twenty first century commercialised festive season on the evening of 14th December, with a novel presentation from History Wardrobe recalling Jane Austen’s Christmas.
Costume historian Gillian Stapleton debunked the myth that the traditional Christmas we know today was a Victorian invention first popularised by Charles Dickens and showed how he was inspired by Georgian festive pleasures and Jane Austen.
Through contemporary diaries, letters and accounts Gillian recounted Jane’s early life, from her birth just nine days before Christmas in 1775. Filled with fascinating detail of customs, decorations, food, gifts, social conditions and manners of the time as well as her and life in the village and rectory, this gave a delightful insight into the background of this beloved author and her later work.
The audience needed little persuasion to play familiar games, including pass the parcel (where each layer revealed a gift and highlighted another enthralling aspect of social life and conditions); or to try their hand at long forgotten games like bullet pudding and heard about games too dangerous to play! There was even a ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’ courtesy of a chilling Regency ghost story.
The evening concluded in the usual History Wardrobe custom, as the fashions of the period were explained in detail as Gillian dressed for a Georgian Christmas party. Just as a lady in the Georgian period was expected to make all the household linen and gentleman’s shirts, Gillian had hand sewn all the meticulously researched replica garments.