Christmas crackers 1843!


Greetings, and a very merry Christmas to all of our followers.

Culture and custom is what we celebrate at Ashridge.

We are probably all aware that Prince Albert , husband of Queen Victoria is credited with popularising the Christmas tree in England in 1841, so what of the history of the Christmas card you may ask.

The tradition of sending Christmas cards began in 1843 with the commission of a card by an influential entrepreneur, Sir Henry Cole, who is credited with devising the concept of sending greetings cards at Christmas time. The Victorians embraced this new tradition, but the first Christmas cards rarely showed winter or religious themes, instead there were sentimental images of children and animals, flowers and fairies.

Recent research has found that designers of Christmas cards during this period used fine art on their products as there was concern that the festival was becoming commercialized. Nothing has changed then. The use of fine art in an affordable product was also a means to inform the average, middle-class consumer (that’s us) of the aesthetic value of the decorative arts.

The strangest card in the collection at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, is one featuring a monkey and a dog under mistletoe. It is certainly very unlike any that you will have received this year.

Equally bizarre is the card featuring characters sitting on a yule log with a hogs head, a goose head and a Christmas pudding head, playing kitchen implements as instruments.

At Ashridge some one hundred years ago, families from the Estate were no doubt delighted and relieved to receive their customary gift from the Brownlows – a joint of home-killed beef. There was two pounds for each adult and one pound for each child, so ten pound joints were not uncommon.

Compliments of the Season to you all.

The Christmas cards are from the Charles Hasler Collection – thanks to MoDA.

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