If you were magically transported back to Christmas in Victorian London, you might not discover the same Christmas rituals you enjoy today. Christmas was much more about religion and much less about commercialism. It was certainly less about children, who are now the main focus of the holiday marketing. The jolly Santa we all recognise was partially invented by the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas and partly invented by Coca Cola, with a dash of Dickens for added ‘colour’. The ritual of the decorated Christmas tree was only introduced in the 19th century, by Prince Albert. The wassailing, carolling and excessive consumption of foodstuffs have remained unchanged, as they were part of the midwinter celebrations from time immemorial.
This doesn’t mean you can’t go to town with a Steampunk Christmas. This is fiction, after all. Think of the fun you can have with automated decorations and toys. A special gadget for spraying artificial snow if the weather isn’t cooperating with a white Christmas. Robot reindeer! Krampus traps! Exploding snowballs! Automated gingerbread house construction! The possibilities are endless.
Using Christmas as a setting allows you to use Christmas as an analogy or metaphor. Christmas is balanced on the edge of Paganism, as I previously mentioned, it I the time of the Winter Solstice and the Midwinter Celebrations. If you’ve ever read ‘The Dark is Rising’ by Susan Cooper (highly recommended if you haven’t), this books uses all the old Midwinter rituals and Christmas to structure the book, to deepen resonance of the symbolism of the six signs, and to add depth to the various characters that populate her world. The title says it all … it is midwinter, the darkest time of the year … and the short day.