Every holiday, there seems to be a great deal of discussion online about what degree of decorating for Christmas is historically accurate. Sure, the inflatable reindeer and gyrating battery-operating Santa don’t cut it for an 18thc celebration, but what about oranges, pineapples, holly, and pine boughs? How much is too much (or too little?)
According to the young 18thc woman in this letter, it’s ALL too much. It's doubtful that Miss Jenny Simper was any more real than Sir Anthony Love, and likely that both are the satiric creations of The Spectator, a daily publication of witty observation published in London by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele between 1711-12. Still, she may have a point….
January the 14th, 1712.
I am a young woman and have my fortune to make for which reason I come constantly to church to hear divine service, and make conquests: But one great hindrance in this my design, is that our clerk, who was once a gardener, has this Christmas so over-deckt the church with greens, that he has quite spoilt my prospect, insomuch that I have scarce seen the young baronet I dress at these three weeks, though we have both been very constant at our devotions, and do not sit above three pews off. The church, as it is now equipt, looks more like a green-house than a place of worship: the middle isle is a very pretty shady walk, and the pews look like so many arbours of each side of it. The pulpit itself has such clusters of ivy, holly, and rosemary about it, that a light fellow in our pew took occasion to say, that the congregation heard the word out of a bush, like Moses. Sir Anthony Love's pew in particular is so well hedged, that all my batteries have no effect. I am obliged to shoot at random among the boughs, without taking any manner of aim. Mr. SPECTATOR, unless you will give orders for removing these greens, I shall grow a very aukward creature at church, and soon have little else to do there but say my prayers.
I am in haste,
your most obedient servant,
The happiest of holidays to you all, no matter how “over-deckt” you may choose to be!
Above: “November: The Twelve Months” by Carington Bowles (Published by) Robert Dighton 1781