Educating yet entertaining: Christmas Past at the Geffrye Museum

Words and pictures: Marija Tomsone | Subbing: Isabella Dawe

Today, with only 12 days left until Christmas, we decided The Voice of London Entertainment section needs more festive feed. That is why on Sunday, one of the coldest days of the year (and whitest, as it finally snowed in London) we found ourselves at the Christmas Past exhibition at the Geffrye Museum – a tiny gem in the east of the city, showing Londoners the best traditions of festive home decorations.

The Geffrye Museum (named after Sir Robert Geffrye, Lord Mayor of London in 1685) portrays traditional English home and home life traditions. It consists of 11 rooms and a garden displaying life, traditions and interiors of London’s middle-class for the past 400 years. Every late November the museum turns into the most festive place in the world. Every one of the rooms representing a century or a decade gets decorated with Christmas trees, lights and mistletoes – depending on what was used at that exact time. 

Christmas table setting in 17th century

In the middle of 17th century, for example, people were keeping things as simple as possible. No signs of Christmas or festivity at all. Not even a single one. Even dishes and cutlery were plain – I guess my great-grandmother could had been using these back in the day.

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The first Christmas tree and mistletoe were introduced to Londoners’ homes in the middle of 18th century. The table was set more pretentiously, too. Even the colours of the room interior have changed – beige and pale brown turned into bright reds and greens. Christmas is just around the corner, isn’t it?

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The last couple of rooms (second half of 20th century) seemed to be the most familiar ones. I guess most of us celebrated Christmas in these kind of interiors when growing up – surrounded by Christmas crackers, delicious treats on the table, colourful lights and, of course, presents underneath the Christmas tree.

The museum itself is really small – it only took us about 30 minutes to see everything. Still, if in the end of your visit you are feeling hungry and/or tired, there is a small cafeteria with decent portions, reasonable prices and (of course!) Christmas decorations. If you still haven’t done your Christmas shopping, there is also a gift shop. And the last, but not the least – if you are still looking for your festive mood – Christmas Past exhibition at the Geffrye Museum is definitely a must-go place for you.

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