An occassional blog dedicated to further exploring the historical context behind Downton Abbey, as well as encouraging debate over the historical context/interpretation of the programme as a whole. Beware of spoilers. Unless otherwise specified all graphics made are mine, with all screencaps coming from DowntonOnline.
On Boxing Day, servants typically had the day off. They would open presents (usually money) from their employers. Sometimes employers would wrap pinnies around their waists and serve the servants Christmas punch (much like this).
The BBC has a video on Victorian parlour games (which I’m fairly sure would have been still around in WWI). However, the advent of commercialism changed Christmas forever from around 1900-1920, much of it in the way of decoration (a picture of a typical Edwardian Christmas living room is here, though we can expect Downton/Highclere to be a lot more lavish, I expect).
And as for the food?
Delicacies on the Edwardian table included boar’s head and sheep’s tongues; if they don’t appeal, you could try another favourite — goose, which was far more common then than turkey. The bird would be stuffed with chestnuts, pork and apple stuffing and sprinkled with fat and salt, then served with apple, gooseberry and bread sauces instead of cranberry. (source)
There’s also a video on commercial cracker making.