(Deborah Swift’s article appeared on English Historical Fiction Writers, 12/18; via Pam Green.)
In Shakespeare’s Day it was more usual to give gifts at New Year, but if you were lucky you might receive one at Christmas. Christmas gifts were known as Christmas Boxes and were usually given by a master to his servants, or an employer to his apprentices or workmen. They were a mark of appreciation for work done over the previous year.
New Year’s gifts were a more equal exchange between friends or relations.
So what might you expect in a Tudor christmas stocking?
Maria Hubert in her book “Christmas in Shakespeare’s England” suggests that Shakespeare might have enjoyed receiving paper as it was very expensive, a new quill pen, or a knife with which to sharpen it.
ell in Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” a pedlar is selling:
Lawn as white as driven snow,
Cyprus black as e’er was crow,
Gloves as sweet as damask roses;
Masks for faces and for noses,
Bugle bracelet, necklace amber,
Perfume for a lady’s chamber;
Golden quoifs and stomachers
For my lads to give their dears.”
Elizabeth herself had a liking for candies and sugar fruits. The Sergeant of the Pastry (what a great title!) gave her a christmas ‘pye of quynses and wardyns guilt’. In other words a gilded pie of quince and plums.