The exterior of the Geffrye at Christmas Past
photography Marc Schlossmann
© Geffrye Museum
Christmas Past: 400 Years of Seasonal Traditions in English Homes
at The Geffrye Museum of the Home
Until 3rd January 2016
The small but gorgeous Geffrye Museum of the Home in Shoreditch has just opened its annual Christmas Past exhibition which for over 25 years has been exploring the history of our festive traditions and customs. This is a highlight of the Christmas season for not only visitors to London but also lots of Londoners.
Every year the Geffrye’s eleven period rooms, each representing a different historical age from the 17th century to the modern day, are decorated in date-appropriate Christmas style, giving visitors the opportunity to see what Christmas would have looked like in English middle-class homes over the past 400 years. The Christmas Past exhibition investigates the meanings and origins of many of our Christmas traditions such as decorating the tree, playing parlour games, sending cards, hanging up stockings, throwing cocktail parties and kissing under the mistletoe. The Geffrye’s ongoing original research into the history of Christmas adds a new dimension to the displays each year.
1935 living room during Christmas Past
© Geffrye Museum
There are always loads of festive events, talks, workshops and evenings all set in the historic surroundings of the museum. This year, the Christmas Past exhibition’s accompanying events programme will have a 17th century theme. Amongst the many special events this year there will be a Christmas Greenery Workshop to create 17th century-inspired decorations and a candlelit 17th century musical evening. The Crafty Fox Night Market on 17th December will be a great evening to buy some handmade presents direct from the designer-makers.
One of the best-loved events and the one that brings the exhibition and the Christmas festivities to a close, is Farewell to Christmas, the Geffrye’s Twelfth Night celebration. This year’s Farewell to Christmas is on Wednesday 6th January 3.30pm -5pm and the evening will include carol singing, Epiphany stories, burning of the holly and the ivy and a taste of mulled wine and Twelfth Night cake. It’s a really lovely evening and popular with many locals. Admission is free but remember to wrap up warm as the event takes place in the museum’s garden.
Not only is the Geffrye Museum a genuine London gem in itself but Christmas Past has become a star in the capital’s Christmas firmament and a perennial, and I must confess sentimentally a personal, favourite.
Tuesday – Sunday & Bank Holiday Mondays 10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays (unless a Bank Holiday), Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day
The Geffrye Museum
136 Kingsland Road
London E2 8EA
Tel: 020 7739 9893