Friday, 23 December 2016

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 74 ...... the last Christmas card ever

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

Christmas greetings, 1911
Now I have no idea how many Christmas cards Joe and Mary Ann received or what they did with them.

During the time Mike John and Lois lived here there were shedloads of cards, mostly given by students and these were arranged on a big wide shelf in the front room close to the gas fire which was potentially always a fire hazard and invariably meant more than a few kept falling down.

We on the other hand display them on green ribbon, in batches of four which are suspended from the picture rails in the hall.

The ribbon isn’t cheap but the glue and the blue tack doesn’t cost much so it balances itself out.

All very different from when I was growing up.  Back then the cards were hung on string with a drawing pin at each end although one year mother experiemented with a card holder it was a a disaster and she reverted to the string.

It is perhaps a minor part of festive preparations but how we hang those cards is as much a part of the tradition of how each of us celebrates the event.

And that I am guessing for most will be a collection of doing things which harp back to childhood and perhaps eve beyond.

Both my parents were born in the early decades of the last century which meant that our Christmas was a mix of Victorian and Edwardian traditions f rom their childhood abd their parents overlaid with that growing commercialism which became ever more intrusive in the 1950s and 60s.

So there was still an orange in the pillow case but that vied with a selection box and a comic annual.

Our own kids get a stocking each rather than a pillow case but each was hand made and has served them since they were born.

Such are the traditions of Christmas, but I wonder how long the Christmas Card will survive, after all the picture postcard has long ago been pretty much sidelined, which I suspect was due to the rising cost of postage, the telephone and mobile and now that simple reliance on a text message.

All of which makes me wonder how long it will be before the Christmas card joins that long list of old fashioned things like the fountain pen and the telegram.

Merrie Christmas circa 1900
Its decline and extinction have been predicted for a while although there is no sign just yet of it happening.

But more of my family and friends each year tell me that they have decided to stop and instead send a e card or just text preferring to plough the money they would have spent in to a donation to charity.

Now on one level I can’t argue with that, but it does seem a shame.

This is partly because I still like getting and sending cards.

I always go to the same charity to buy them and have a set way of writing them.

All of which I would miss doing.

But it is more than that, it is the loss to future historians.

Like the picture post card and the letter the Christmas card offers up a snap shot of the past.  It starts with the image on the outside. And goes on to the message inside.

From the Front, 1914
And even while there is a convention in both the Christmas picture and the sentiment inside there is often just that little bit of originality which can tell you so much.

In the collection I have a series of cards each depicting snowman in the military uniforms of Germany before the Great War.  The cards were popular and seem to have been reissued over a number of years until of course 1914.

And in the same way the message inside will offer up insights into how families spent their Christmas from the one expressing excitant at the second Royal Christmas broadcast on the wireless, to those from battlefronts in two world wars.

All of which just leaves me to wish that I could come across a few that Joe and Mary Ann received, after all they had moved in just before December 1915 and Mary Ann was still here for the Christmas of 1973 which is a long time in the history and evolution of the Christmas card.

Pictures; Victorian Christmas card from the collection of Tony Walker, A Bluish Rose, 1911, and "HOORAH FOR THE KING" from the series 4TH CORPS XMAS 1914, Tuck and Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB,

*The story of house,

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