In the course of uncovering our family history we often find our ancestors chose to marry on Christmas Day. It’s a romantic thought and was a popular tradition but it wasn’t always through choice. In the 19th and early 20th centuries Christmas Day and Boxing Day were very often the only two days of the year that workers could be guaranteed a holiday. Remember Charles Dicken’s work, ‘A Christmas Carol? At the beginning of the book Ebenezer Scrooge is reluctantly forced to give his poor clerk Bob Cratchett a holiday on Christmas Day. Across the country, Churches were open for marriage ceremonies which along with baptisms were often performed free of charge on Christmas Day. This was hugely popular and group weddings regularly took place.
Below is an extract from the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser on 29 December 1900 about London Marriages. It describes the chaotic scenes in one Church as the clergyman performed eight or nine marriage ceremonies with half a dozen couples in each batch.
There are plenty of couples in my own family trees that married on Christmas day. Especially those in service, again because they could be sure it would be a day free from their duties. On 25th December 1913, in a storyline worthy of Downton Abbey, Auntie Mabel Grace Tompson (1878-1967), a ladies maid at Trowsley Towers in Wrotham, Kent married the chauffeur Henry Martin.
Mabel Grace Tompson
My Great Grandmother Ellen Rosina Baker also married on Christmas Day. In the certificate from 1888 her husband, William Edward Burton, is described as ‘a clerk’, reminiscent of Bob Cratchett, I feel. Their daughter Ethel whose photograph graces this blog was also married on Christmas Day in 1920 to John Hill Biggs.