After a long year for all of us, December has finally arrived, and with it the promise of crisp winter mornings, twinkling lights and festive feasts. With that in mind, we couldn’t help but delve into the winter wonderland of our Christmassy collections.

Leave room for dessert

The evolution of many traditional Christmas dishes can be traced through recipes found in the University of Leeds Cookery Collection
The history of Christmas Pudding, one of the most ritualised of all Christmas dishes, is especially interesting. Everything from the ingredients themselves, to the ritual of preparation and the method of cooking Christmas Pudding can seem antique, as though this is a tradition stretching back over centuries. But much like everything else associated with Christmas today, the Christmas Pudding originated in the 19th century and was a Victorian invention.

Recipe for Christmas plum pudding from ‘The book of household management’ by Mrs Beeton, London, 1869. Image credit Leeds University Library.

From the renowned ‘Book of Household management’ by Mrs Beeton, first published in 1861, the recipe for plum pudding includes: 1 ½ lb. raisins, ½ lb. currants, ½ lb. mixed peel, ¾ lb. bread-crumbs, ¾ lb. suet, 8 eggs and 1 wineglassful brandy. 
Mrs Beeton also noted, “Five or six of these puddings should be made at one time, as they will keep good for many weeks, and in some cases where unexpected guests arrive, will be found an acceptable, and, as it only requires warming through, a quickly prepared dish.”

Discover more ‘Recipes of Christmas Past’ in our research spotlight.

A Victorian Christmas greeting

Many of the familiar images that we see adorning Christmas cards every year were popularised during the Victorian era. Holly, robins and snow, for example, immediately evoke a festive feeling. However, not all of the images that could be found on Victorian Christmas cards have made the cut.

Christmas card, from a scrapbook belonging to Mary Cowden Clarke. Novello-Cowden Clarke Collection. Image credit Leeds University Library.

The card shown here features a bizarre image of a couple of insects alongside a quote from Shakespeare’s Othello. Not your average Christmas greeting. This piece, part of a scrapbook put together by Mary Cowden Clarke, features in an upcoming #TwoMinuteTreasure video about Victorian Christmas cards. The video will be available to watch from 1.30pm on 22nd December on our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channel

For more Christmas treats from our wonderful collections, keep your eyes peeled on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts throughout December. For quickfire video content, join us over on our new TikTok page.