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Christmas Past 2016

400 Years of Seasonal Traditions in English Homes

Tuesday 22 November 2016 - Sunday 8 January 2017. Free

Christmas Past period rooms

Each year, authentic festive decorations, lighting, music and greenery transform the Geffrye Museum’s period living rooms, giving visitors an evocative insight into how Christmas has been celebrated from 1600 to the present day.

Christmas Past has taken place at the Geffrye for over 25 years and for many visitors, a trip to the show has become an essential part of their own Christmas rituals. 

The exhibition brings to life the origins and meanings of many of the rich and vibrant traditions of Christmas past, from feasting, dancing and kissing under the mistletoe to playing parlour games, decorating the tree, hanging up stockings, sending cards, and throwing cocktail parties. 

It also highlights how the popularity of Christmas has waxed and waned through the centuries. The hedonistic festivities of the early 17th century were banned by the Puritans in the middle of the century. After the ban lifted in 1660, Christmas continued to be rather a subdued affair up until the early 19th century when it began to enjoy a revival. Early traditions reappeared together with new parlour entertainments such as blind man’s buff, snap dragon and charade-like character games. However, it was during the reign of Queen Victoria that Christmas really came back with a bang with the introduction of many traditions we are familiar with today such as decorating a fir tree and putting children at the centre of the festivities. 

Christmas Past will be accompanied by a full programme of events including craft fairs, festive evenings, carol singing and decoration workshops. Throughout the show, festive food and drinks will be on offer in the café and the shop will be stocked full of Christmas decorations and cards, unusual gifts, stylish homewares and treats.

Related Events


For ticketed events, please book at, 020 7749 6024 or

Workshop: Seasonal Decorations

Create colourful, unique Christmas decoration using a variety of felt-making techniques.

Saturday 19 November, 10.30am-4.30pm

Tickets £35, £30 concs (includes all materials)

Workshop: Christmas Greenery

Join the Geffrye gardeners to create a festive decoration with fresh greenery.

Friday 9 December and Saturday 10 December, 1.30 – 4.30pm

Tickets £50, £45 concs (includes short talk, workshop and all materials)

Exhibition talk: Christmas Past in Focus

Explore Victorian Christmas traditions in this informal talk with our curator.

Saturday 10 December, 11.30am and repeated at 3pm. Free

Concert by Candlelight

A moving recital of a cappella Christmas music by acclaimed group Bocca Aperta.

Wednesday 14 December. Museum opens at 7.30pm, concert 8pm.

Tickets £20/£17 concs (includes a glass of sherry or port and a mince pie)

All ages

Festive Open Evenings

Kick off your Christmas celebrations with the popular Crafty Fox Christmas market, craft activities for children and adults, greenery demonstrations, seasonal talks, music, a bar and street food.

Thursday 1 December

Thursday 15 December (Crafty Fox fair only)

5-9pm. Free

Hidden Art Christmas Makers

A special Christmas pop-up shop featuring work by talented young makers from Hidden Art – perfect for unique Christmas gifts.

Tuesday 22 November to Sunday 11 December, 10am-5pm (closed Mondays)

Farewell to Christmas

Wrap up warm and join us in the gardens for the Geffrye’s own tradition of burning the holly and ivy, with carol singing, Epiphany stories and a taste of mulled wine and Twelfth Night cake.

Friday 6 January, 3.30-5pm. Free


‘O Christmas Tree’ (ages 2-16)

Create Crazy Christmas decorations for your tree.

Saturday 12 December, 10.30am-12.30pm and 2-4pm

Free. Places first come, first served 30 minutes in advance


1. For further details or to arrange an interview with the exhibition curator, please contact Nancy Loader at or on 020 7749 6026. Christmas Past press images can be viewed and downloaded here: Christmas Past exhibition press images

2. Christmas Past has taken place at the Geffrye for over 25 years and on-going, original research into the history of Christmas adds a new dimension to the displays each year. A well-illustrated book, Christmas Past, Christmas Present, written by Geffrye curators, tells the history of Christmas in English homes and is available in the museum's shop.

3. The Geffrye explores the home from 1600 to the present day. Evocative displays of London, middle-class living rooms and gardens illustrate homes and home life through the centuries, reflecting changes in society, behaviour, style and taste. The museum is set in beautiful 18th-century almshouse buildings surrounded by gardens in Hoxton, East London.

4. Address 136 Kingsland Road, Hoxton, London E2 8EA. 020 7739 9893. 

Travel:  Hoxton overground (directly behind the museum)

 Old Street, exit 2 then bus 243 or 15 minute walk

Open: Tuesday - Sunday & Bank Holiday Mondays 10am - 5pm

Closed: 24, 25, 26 Dec 2016 and 1 January 2017 - check for full details of Christmas opening 

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