Christmas Mail

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I hope by now we have all received a few Christmas cards to line up on our mantle or counter, to string above doors or hang from ribbons. Electronic cards are nice. They play songs and characters dance, but I can’t imagine saving the email to enjoy years hence as someone once did with this turn-of-the-last-century postcard.

I am always thankful to receive a few more tangible holiday memories in an intangible electronic world.

The Bravery of Old England

I’ve never had a plum pudding, carried flaming to the table with a sprig of holly on it like a jaunty beret. But frankly, after seeing some Victorian Christmas cards that star Ye Olde Figgy Pudding, I doubt that I am courageous enough to handle the experience. Those Victorians were an intrepid lot to face that dessert year after year.

Even when the illustrators were aiming for cute, they usually hit a bull’s eye in badass scary. Imagine meeting this fellow strolling down Christmas Tree Lane:

I have not decided which is worse, the knife and fork arms or the strange glass balanced on his head. Actually, the twigs spelling Merry Christmas are pretty creepy, too. And despite the presence of Santa in this next card, I would give those treats a miss (hit turbulence with his sleigh and he could wipe out an entire town):

Even the Victorians admitted their favorite Christmas treat had a dark side:

And while puddings still enjoy a certain popularity in England and the Commonwealth, I definitely prefer the more modern interpretation, such as my daughter found with “Mr. Pudding” on a t-shirt in Sydney, Australia years ago.

But then, I don’t think that was a “Christmas” pudding.

My unease continues…

The Pen Holder’s Tale

My friend India gave me this jar 20 years ago. She knew that I liked willow ware, which its pseudo Chinese landscape is reminiscent of; plus, it did not sell at our yard sale.

It looks old, but not valuable, so I’ve always used it as a pen holder on my desk, on hand for taking notes, writing in my journal, and far too infrequently, penning a letter.

When India first gave me the jar, I checked the bottom for markings. None. It looked worn so I figured it was at least 50 years old or more, but I thought nothing more about its origins until I saw this picture:

They’re not twins, but those jars definitely look like siblings or close cousins of mine. The chipped pair in the photo are among the 13,000 Victorian jam jars and pickle pots unearthed in an archaeological dig at the site of a new London rail station.

Crosse and Blackwell once operated a food manufacturing factory on the site, chucking left over or broken pots into a cistern from the 1870s until 1921. The blue and white jars were designed to hold preserved ginger, so I believe my pot once held the same.

I’ll never know how and when it crossed the Atlantic to America and traveled overland to California, but whenever I look at my pen holder now, I will think of London housewives, Crosse and Blackwell and a long ago jar of preserved ginger.

Those Wacky Victorians

frog-card

If I write the words “Victorian Christmas card,” what springs to mind? Perhaps a convivial cast of Dickens-esque characters enjoying carols round the tree or sitting at a banquet table with a flaming plum pudding. Or maybe you think of turn-of-the-century whimsy, with beribboned kittens and rosy-cheeked children. But how about ice skating frogs who have lost both their footing and their pipes, all in a row?

Welcome to the wacky world of Victorian novelty cards where beetles dance with frogs while some winged thing shakes a tambourine.

bug-card

Then again, nothing says holiday cheer like traveling bee and beetle musicians in a wintry landscape. Their walking sticks are a nice touch.

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Strange these cards may be, but stranger still are the dead bird postcards. No kidding; I have seen more than one Victorian holiday card that features a dead bird lying on its back, little feet cocked in the air, a cheery Christmas message written below.

I decided not to “send” you any of those. You can thank me later.

 

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

christmas-mail-1Readers, are you still out there?

My mail ship veered off course for nearly a year. You can imagine all of the reasons — excuses — and none of them provides an adequate explanation. My life and the accompanying calendar just zoomed past at breathtaking speed. But as the holidays approach, my thoughts inevitably turn to Christmas cards and reconnections and this sadly neglected blog.

Maybe I should not promise to be a better correspondent in the future. Like the scrawled note at the bottom of a seasonal card, intentions are good, but distractions are many. So even if these electronic cards and letters are destined to post only sporadically in the future, let me say here and now HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Let’s begin a season of Christmas.

A Letter a Day

snail mailPat, a Post Whistle reader, urged me to let everyone know about InCoWriMo — not an association of rhyming cattle, but rather International Correspondence Writing Month. And it begins today.

imgresParticipants pledge to write a letter a day every day through the month of February. I don’t know if the organizers chose this month because it’s the shortest, so one’s letter total is under 30, or because the month surrounding Valentine’s Day seems the proper time to connect with loved ones near and far. Whatever the reason, this is the month to let those letters fly.

Life is too hectic for me to commit to writing letters daily, but I do write them weekly now that my daughter is attending college on the east coast. But for those with more stick-to-it-ness than I, pick up the gauntlet of InCoWriMo’s snail mail challenge and give your pen a workout.