History of Christmas in Cape May
History of Christmas in Cape May
Published on December 16, 2015
Anna Marie and I thoroughly enjoy the festivities and decorations that adorn both The Queen Victoria and Cape May during the Christmas season! Whether it’s the holiday-themed trolley tours or carriage rides or the tree lighting ceremonies throughout town, there’s something very special in the air in Cape May in December. In fact, Travel + Leisure put Cape May on its list of America’s Best Towns for the Holidays!
Christmas is especially fun at The Queen Victoria, not only because of our expertly trimmed and decorated trees honoring different eras, and the amazing decorations found throughout the inn, but because many of the traditions we honor today began during the reign of Queen Victoria (though ours have the benefit of electricity!).
Prince Albert brought the German traditions to their celebrations, such as a tree, but the Queen is most often cited for popularizing the Christmas traditions that we still enjoy today. Prior to her rule, Christmas was a church affair and seldom celebrated in the home. Once a picture of the Royal Family’s Christmas tree was shown to the people of England, trees were being brought into homes and decorated for the holiday. At The Queen Victoria, we celebrate Christmas with our own Christmas trees decorated for the early, middle, and late Victorian periods.
Most of the Victorian traditions popularized by Queen Victoria are still alive today, including decorated trees, cards, singing carols, and even our representation of Santa Claus are from the Victorian era. We think you’ll also appreciate the horse-drawn carriages decorated for the season. Even if you can’t see them out your room’s window, you’ll definitely be able to hear the horses’ bells ringing and jingling!
We take great pride at The Queen Victoria for our role in starting the Christmas tradition in Cape May that is so famous today. The founders of The Queen Victoria almost single handedly started the Christmas phenomenon in Cape May when they, alone among the B&Bs & hotels in Cape May, decided to not only stay open after Labor Day and through Christmas, but actually began hosting guests for Christmas. They also decorated our buildings for the season and encouraged others to do so as well. Before long, other innkeepers and hotels joined in the spirit of the holidays and people started flocking to Cape May to experience the charms and joys of the Christmas season in a beautiful, historic setting.
One of our favorite festive events of the Christmas season in Cape May is the Dickens Extravaganza. This event was also started at The Queen Victoria and Christmas hasn’t been the same since in our seaside resort town. During this event, which always starts on the first Sunday after the first Saturday of December (I know it sounds complicated, but it really isn’t if you think about it), Cape May becomes a Christmas Village where you can immerse yourself in the holiday traditions of our past and learn a thing or two from various lectures and performances. You won’t hear anyone say “bah humbug” as we celebrate the author of A Christmas Carol.
In the late Victorian era, shopping became a major element of the holidays as manufactured gifts and decorations were purchased in stores and shopkeepers tried to keep up with demand. Today, the Washington Street Mall shopkeepers and stores throughout town participate in Hospitality Nights in December, where patrons are offered food and drinks while they shop. And, while Victoria and Albert didn’t take to the streets over the holiday, a fun celebration that just celebrated its 50th year is the West Cape May Christmas Parade, which always occurs on the first Saturday of December!
A fun way we celebrate Christmas at The Queen Victoria is with our special holiday reception on Christmas Eve, in place of afternoon tea, and discovering one of our custom, handmade stockings filled with fun little gifts hanging from the guest room door on Christmas morning.
If you want to really experience Christmas in Cape May more in-depth, you may wish to attend the Christmas Candelight House Tours where you can view the exhibit on “An Old-fashioned Christmas: Holiday Traditions Through The Years” in the Carroll Gallery and you’ll get to stop by The Queen Victoria during your tour! And, you’ll probably catch Anna Marie and me in our Victorian period clothing!
Wishing you a happy holiday season!