Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Writing - Different viewpoints


The Victorians have a lot to answer for but their views of what we now consider fun figures is weird.



Christmas cards
Victorian scary snowmen

No loveable snowmen here. Some of the images are the stuff of nightmares.

Murderous frogs, children boiled in teapots and a mouse riding a lobster are generally not images seen today on Christmas cards. But in Victorian times it was all par for the course. 

Old card of a mouse riding a lobster, 1880 The card wishes the recipient 'Paix, Joie, Sante, Bonheur' or 'Peace, Joy, Health and Happiness'.
Mouse riding a lobster for Christmas

But who decides what a Christmassy symbol is anyway?

The first Christmas card was commercially produced by Sir Henry Cole in 1843 but it was not until the 1870s, and the introduction of the halfpenny stamp, that sending cards was affordable for almost everyone. Victorians then leapt upon the idea with alacrity.

It was customary in Victorian times for friends and family to exchange letters in which was included news of the year that had just about passed by. I received a similar missive this year from a friend I went to school with 60 years ago. It is a habit that we've gotten into as a result of living 200 miles away from each other. It takes the form of the blank side of the card, opposite the seasonal message, being filled with news of the past year.
I did experience a rather vomit inducing version in which a family I knew published a two page missive outlining the activities of each member of the family over the previous year. They lived round the corner!

Christmas card
Frog on frog murder for Christmas

The above 'Christmas card' is just plain weird. How on earth did anyone tag, 'A Merry Christmas to you' beneath a picture of robbery and murder, as a suitable greeting?

Christmas card
May yours be a joyful Christmas!

That greeting with a dead robin above might accrue more enmity than returned goodwill.

Of course these horror images are more about humour than the real meaning of Christmas as the Victorians, in my view, had the religious side of the holiday firmly planted within the walls of their churches. So the greetings cards were not about the reason for the season but more on having a laugh.

Christmas cards
Boiling a child in a teapot. Assaulting a policeman
with a red hot poker.

In all honesty, taking Christmas out of the equation, they are all still pretty weird.

God Bless