peep show box

A late 19th century illustration of a family decorating their Christmas tree. The Christmas tree was a German tradition which became instantly popular in Britain after Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the royal children were drawn standing around one in 1848. Specially made Christmas tree decorations did not make much of a commercial impact until the 20th century, so well-off families (the only ones who could afford a real tree) would decorate the tree with small presents and treats for their children. The children would be allowed to take a few of these items off the tree on Christmas Eve. Charles Dickens described such a tree in 1850 in his magazine ‘Household Words’:

“There were rosy-cheeked dolls…real watches…sugar plums, there were fiddles and drums, there were tambourines, books, work boxes, paint boxes, sweetmeat boxes, peep-show boxes…baskets and pincushions…real fruit made artificially dazzling with gold leaf; imitation apples, pears, and walnuts, crammed with surprises…”