Christmas in London

Christmas in London has always been a special time, especially in the East End.
The area is well known for that tightknit community feel and no season shows this more than Christmas.
Famous for it’s Dickensian cobbled streets the area takes on a character of its own at this time of year.
Here we take a look at what Christmas was like in Victorian times here in the East End.

In the 19th century, London embraced the Christmas season with a blend of nostalgia, elaborate decorations, and heartwarming traditions that have left an indelible mark on the way we celebrate Christmas today.

Carol Singing

In Victorian London, the air on Christmas Eve was filled with the harmonious voices of carol singers. Groups would traverse cobblestone streets, spreading holiday cheer with timeless carols like “Silent Night” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” The tradition of caroling was not only a form of entertainment but also a way to foster a sense of community and unity during the festive season.

Christmas decorations by gaslight

Though Christmas trees had been introduced to England by Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, it was during the Victorian era that they became a popular feature in London households. Streets were adorned with festive greenery, and shop windows were meticulously decorated to create a magical atmosphere. The soft glow of gas lamps added an ethereal quality to the city, casting a warm light on the snowy streets and contributing to the enchanting ambiance.

Christmas food and drink

Christmas feasting in Victorian London was a lavish affair. Families would gather around tables laden with roast meats, mince pies, and plum puddings. The aroma of spices, roasted chestnuts, and mulled wine wafted through the air, creating a sensory delight. Wassailing, a traditional practice of toasting to the health and prosperity of the household, was a common occurrence, bringing together friends and family in shared celebration.

Christmas Gifting

The Victorian era witnessed the popularization of gift-giving as a central Christmas tradition. Exchanging handmade gifts and small tokens of affection became customary. However, the spirit of Christmas extended beyond personal exchanges, as Victorians embraced charitable acts during the festive season. Inspired by the charitable themes in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” many Londoners took this time to support local causes and extend a helping hand to those less fortunate.


Theaters in Victorian London flourished during the Christmas season, offering a variety of festive performances. One of the most enduring traditions was the Christmas pantomime – a lively and often humorous stage show that blended fairy tales, music, and audience participation. The pantomime became a cherished part of the holiday experience, providing entertainment for families and adding a touch of whimsy to the Christmas celebrations. If you have never been to one we would higjly recommend you do, they’re great fun. This year at the Palladium Jennifer Saunders and Julian Clary star in Peter Pan. You can get your tickets here.

Victorian London set the stage for many of the beloved Christmas traditions we hold dear today. From the timeless melodies of carol singers to the festive decorations adorning the streets, the Victorian era shaped the way we celebrate the holiday season. As we bask in the warmth of our own Christmas traditions, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the nostalgia and charm of a Dickensian Christmas, where the spirit of generosity, community, and festive joy took center stage in the heart of Victorian London.
Come and explore Christmas in the East end of London on our Eat the East End food tour.

You can even gift a loved one a food tour voucher this Christmas. Click here to buy a gift voucher.

Christas decorations in London