Craftsmen created containers of precious metals, leather, and silks and decorated them with jewels and engraving. Jane Austen and her contemporaries would have used writing boxes, linen boxes when travelling, boxes to hold their food and drink supplies while traveling by carriage, and decorative boxes to keep letters, ribbons, gloves, hairpins etc. Boxes, Cases, and Necessaires By Suzi Love, History Notes Book 11. books2read.com/suziloveBoxesCases.
The 26th December was St. Stephen’s Day, the first Christian martyr and patron saint of horses, so Boxing Day became associated with horse racing and sports. It was also when the English churches alms boxes were opened and the contents given to the poor of the parish. In the song Good King Wenceslas, the king gave the poor man meat, wine and wood “on the feast of Stephen.” Written by John Mason Neale and first published in 1853, the lyrics celebrate the spirit of Boxing Day which was generosity. King Wenceslas watches a poor man “gath’ring winter fuel. and he then brings the peasant food and logs for his fire. In parts of Europe, St. Stephen’s Day is considered the second day of Christmas.
On the Boxing Day holiday, servants, apprentices, and the poor were presented with gifts. The origin of the holiday is unknown, but was probably first observed in the Middle Ages and the name may come from the opening of alms boxes that had been placed in churches over the holidays for distribution to the poor. It may also be because servants opened their gift boxes on the day after Christmas because on Christmas Day they were busy cooking and serving a large festive meal for their employers. December 26th is also the feast day of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and patron saint of horses, so Boxing Day has now become associated with horse racing and sports.
One of the earliest records of these box gifts dates from 1663. In an entry in his diary, English Parliamentarian Samuel Pepys writes that he sent a coach and messenger to his shoemaker to deliver “something to the boys’ box against Christmas” in addition to funds to cover his bill. During Queen Victoria’s reign, Boxing Day became a chance for church parishioners to deposit donations into a box that was put out for the purpose by the clergyman. The money in the boxes was given to the poor.
Some villages followed the custom of the Hunting of the Wren, where small boys captured a wren, killed it, and then mounted it on a pole and carry to every house in the village while singing a song. Money collected was used for a village dance. In London, and in many other parts of Europe, large families and establishments keep regular lists of tradesman’s servants, apprentices, and other persons, who come about making a sort of annual claim on them for a Christmas box on this day.’
‘The custom of annual donations at Christmas, and on New Year’s-day, is very ancient, being copied by the Christians from the Polytheists of Rome, at the time the public religion was changed. These presents, now-a-days, are more commonly made on the morrow of Christmas. From this circumstance the festival of St. Stephen has got the nickname of Christmas Boxing-day, and by corruption, Boxing-day.’ From:- The Lady’s Monthly Museum, Vernor & Hood: Christmas-boxes, 1824.
‘On the day after Christmas, tradespeople are visited by persons in the employment of their customers for a “Christmas-box,” and every man and boy who thinks he is qualified to ask, solicits from those on whom he calculates as likely to bestow. A writer, in 1731, describes Boxing-day at that time from his own experience. ” By that time I was up, my servants could do nothing but run to the door. Inquiring the meaning, I was answered, the people were come for their Christmas-box : this was logic to me; but I found at last, that, because I had laid out a great deal of ready-money with my brewer, baker, and other tradesmen, they kindly thought it my duty to present their servants with some money for the favor of having their goods. This provoked me a little; but being told it was ‘ he custom,’ I complied. These were followed by the watch, beadles, dustmen, and an innumerable tribe; but what vexed me the most was the clerk, who has an extraordinary place, and makes as good an appearance as most tradesmen in the parish; to see him come a boxing, alias begging, I thought was intolerable: however I found it was ‘ the custom’ too, so I gave him half-a-crown; as I was likewise obliged to do to the bellman, for breaking my rest for many nights together.’ From The Every-day book and table book by William Hone, 1839
Boxing Day is one of the many customs and traditions associated with Christmas that is featured in History of Christmases Past (Book 1 History Events) by Suzi Love.
Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, or Santa, is a legendary character originating in Western Christian culture who is said to bring children gifts during the late evening and overnight hours on Christmas Eve of toys and candy or coal or nothing, depending on whether they are “naughty or nice”. With the aid of Christmas elves, he makes toys in his workshop at the North Pole. On Christmas Eve, flying reindeer pull his sleigh through the sky.
This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of the 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”.
Caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast, German-American cartoonist, (1840-1902), began drawing an image of Santa each year, beginning in 1863, that was based on 1823 poem. By the 1880s, Nast’s Santa was the most popular and by the 1920s, was the most used in advertising.
In 1931, Coca Cola employed illustrator, Haddon Sundblom, to create a happier image of Santa. He created a new advertisement each year and from then on, Santa was depicted as a portly, jolly, white-bearded man, often with spectacles, wearing a red coat with white fur collar and cuffs, white-fur-cuffed red trousers, red hat with white fur, black leather belt and boots, and carrying a bag full of gifts for children and with a laugh that sounds like “ho ho ho”.
Santa Claus The origin of Santa Claus begins in the 4th century with Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, an area in present day Turkey. By all accounts St. Nicholas was a generous man, particularly devoted to children. In the Western world, where Christmas is characterized by the exchange of gifts among friends and family members, some of the gifts are attributed to a character called Santa Claus. He is also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, St. Nikolaus, Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, Joulupukki, Weihnachtsmann, Saint Basil and Father Frost.
In the 4th century, Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, Turkey, was a kind and generous man who was particularly devoted to children. His kindness and reputation for generosity gave rise to claims he that he could perform miracles and devotion to him increased. Thousands of churches across Europe were dedicated to him and some time around the 12th century an official church holiday was created in his honor. The Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated December 6 and the day was marked by gift-giving and charity.
Father Christmas, who predates Santa Claus, was first recorded in the 15th century and then associated with holiday merrymaking and drunkenness. In Victorian Britain, his image was remade to match that of Santa and France’s Père Noël (Papa Noël) evolved the same way and eventually began using the same Santa image.
Today’s version of Santa Claus was created by the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902), who drew a new image of the character annually, beginning in 1863. By the 1880s, Nast’s Santa had become the one now know and in the 1920s, this image was used in most advertising. But it was the early to mid Coca Cola advertising that cemented the idea of Santa Claus as a jolly man with a white beard and wearing a red suit. He was portrayed as drinking a coke and smiling happily. Many famous artists started doing yearly illustrations of Santa Claus that were used for magazine covers and Christmas postcards.
The Star of Bethlehem, or Christmas Star appears in nativity story of Gospel of Matthew where wise men from the East, or Magi, follow the star and travel to Jerusalem. The Three Wise Men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn king. Myrrh being commonly used as an anointing oil, frankincense as a perfume, and gold as a valuable.
Three Kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.
The Three Kings by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were the three presents brought by the Wise Men to the Infant Christ, lying in the manger stall, at Bethlehem. Gold to Christ means that all the affluence of the world surrendered to Him and Gold paid the way for Joseph and Mary and the divine fugitive into Egypt. The gold for Christ, the silver for Christ, the jewels for Christ. The bright, round, beautiful jewel of a world set like a solitaire on the bosom of Christ. The wise men shook myrrh out of their sacks and the cattle snuffed at it but didn’t eat it because it was bitter. This pungent gum resin of Abyssinia was brought to the feet of Christ to show bitter betrayal, persecution, days of suffering and bitter nights. Myrrh was put into His cup when He was dying and put under His head in the wilderness and Myrrh was used on His from the cattle-pen in Bethlehem to the mausoleum. Frankincense means worship and was brought to temples, sprinkled over the living coals, and when they were ready to worship, the cover was lifted and perfumed smoke arose and filled the places of worship and altars.
In modern times, gifts are given on December 25th, or Christmas Day, in most countries but in others it is December 6th, or Saint Nicholas Day, and January 6th, or Epiphany. European countries generally follow the custom of giving each other presents on Christmas Eve.
The origin of Santa Claus begins in the 3rd or 4th century with Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, an area in present day Turkey. By all accounts St. Nicholas was a generous man, particularly devoted to children.Thousands of churches across Europe were dedicated to him and some time around the 12th century an official church holiday was created in his honor. The Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated December 6 and the day was marked by gift-giving and charity.
After the Reformation, European followers of St. Nicholas dwindled, but the legend was kept alive in Holland where the Dutch spelling of his name Sint Nikolaas was eventually transformed to Sinterklaas, and then Santa Claus. After his death around 340 A.D., he was buried in Myra, but in 1087 Italian sailors purportedly stole his remains and removed them to Bari, Italy, greatly increasing St. Nicholas’ popularity throughout Europe. His kindness and reputation for generosity gave rise to claims he that he could perform miracles and devotion to him increased. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of Russia, where he was known by his red cape, flowing white beard, and bishop’s mitre.
In Greece, he is the patron saint of sailors. In France, the patron of lawyers. In Belgium, the patron of children and travelers. Thousands of churches across Europe were dedicated to him and some time around the 12th century an official church holiday was created in his honor. The Feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated December 6 and the day was marked by gift-giving and charity.
After the Reformation, European followers of St. Nicholas dwindled, but the legend was kept alive in Holland where the Dutch spelling of his name Sint Nikolaas was eventually transformed to Sinterklaas, and then Santa Claus. Dutch children would leave their wooden shoes by the fireplace, and Sinterklaas would reward good children. hence Santa Claus bringing gifts to children who have been good.
A Visit from St. Nicholas By Clement Clark Moore
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads:
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,—
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon, on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below;
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So, up to the house-top the coursers, they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys, —and Saint Nicholas, too.
And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
Down the chimney Saint Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedlr just opening his pack.
His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook, whe he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, —a right jolly old elf—
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle;
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight:
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
At the end of the winter term, schoolmasters would set their pupils to work on Christmas Pieces, samplers of writing on superior paper with engraved borders, to show parents how they had progressed during the year. By about 1820, the engraved borders were enhanced with color and the children’s pieces became more decorative.
However, the custom of sending cards at Christmas was started in the United Kingdom in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. Postage had been standardized three years earlier and Cole was a civil servant who had played a key role in initiating Uniform Penny Post. He wanted ordinary people to become more interested in the new ‘Public Post Office’. With his artist friend John Horsley, they designed the first card which was issued from a periodical, Felix Summerley’s Home Treasury, and were sold for 1 shilling each.
The card was lithographed, hand-colored, had three panels and was in a rustic frame of carved wood and ivy. The outer two panels showed people caring for the hungry and the naked. The centre panel showed a family of three generations having Christmas dinner, although the temperate classes strongly objected to the idea of a child being given a glass of wine with dinner.
1843 First Christmas Card ever Printed. Vintage Christmas Card.
New railways carried more post, and a lot faster, than a horse and carriage so the Post Office offered a Penny stamp. Cards became even more popular when they could be posted in an unsealed envelope for one halfpenny. Christmas cards became truly popular when printing improved and cards could be produced in large numbers, around 1860. By the early 1900s, the custom had spread over Europe and especially in Germany.
Early cards usually pictured Nativity scenes, but in the late Victorian times, robins and snow-scenes became popular because the postmen wore red uniforms and were nicknamed ‘Robin Postmen’. Snow-scenes were also popular because they were a reminder of the very bad winter of 1836.
Snow scenes reflected the snowy and often harsh northern hemisphere winters when opening and reading Christmas cards was an enjoyable family experience. In 1860, Charles Goodall & Son, a British publisher of visiting cards, began mass producing cards to be used for visits during the Christmas period. These Christmas and New Year’s visiting cards were decorated with simple designs such as a twig of holly or flowers.
Sales of cards grew and designs and sizes changed. The first cards were meant to appeal to the masses and encourage them to send large numbers by post, so rather than focus on religious images, they showed sentimental or humorous images of family and children, fanciful designs of flowers, fairies, or reminders of the approach of spring. Religious themes of nativity scenes, children looking at the manger, or angels and candles remain popular to the modern day.
Cards could be shaped like bells, a fan, a crescent, a circle, or a diamond and were folding, decorated with jewels, iridescent, embossed, and carried either simple Christmas and New Year greetings or had verses and carols written in them. The next year, Mr W.C.T. Dobson produced a sketch symbolizing the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ which sold many more than the previous thousand and the novelty caught on.
Many artists became famous for their annual illustrations that became postcards and cards. Printing technology became more advanced in the age of industrialisation and the price of card production dropped. With the introduction of the halfpenny postage rate, the Christmas card industry industry increased until in 1880 11.5 million cards were produced.
Another Christmas Tradition is kisisng under the Mistletoe. So have fun this Christmas and find someone to kiss. The problem in hotter climates is to find the Mistletoe, of course. Darn!
Mistletoe was used by Druid priests 200 years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. They revered the plant since it had no roots yet remained green during the cold months of winter. The ancient Celtics believed mistletoe to have magical healing powers and used it as an antidote for poison, infertility, and to ward of evil spirits. The plant was also seen as a symbol of peace, and it is said that among Romans, enemies who met under mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace.
Scandanavians associated the plant with Frigga, their goddess of love, and it may be from this that we derive the custom of kissing under the mistletoe. Those who kissed under the mistletoe had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year. Mistletoe was associated with Christmas as both a decoration under which lovers kiss, as well as a protection from witches and demons. Sounds romantic, although mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant that grows on other trees or plants and comes in many varieties.
In Britain, mistletoe was mainly found in the western and southwestern parts, so the custom wasn’t even followed in all parts of England. But where the mistletoe custom was followed, it was hung in doorways and the greenery was watched by young gentlemen in hopes of catching a pretty girl to kiss, usually on the cheek.
Traditionally, a man was allowed to kiss a woman who was standing underneath mistletoe and bad luck would befall any woman who refused. In some places, it was the custom to pick a berry for each kiss and when all the berries were gone, no more kisses could be taken.
The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant, or sub-deacon, and the revelries followed the Pagan tradition of Saturnalia and was a time of drunkenness and wild partying. The Church’s festival with a Boy Bishop, the leader of children’s festivities in choir schools, was similar, but was abolished by Henry VIII in 1541, restored by the Catholic Queen Mary, but again abolished by Protestant Elizabeth I. On the Continent, the Council of Basle suppressed it in 1431 but the custom was revived in some places from time to time, even as late as the eighteenth century. After the death of Edward VI in 1553, the English court stopped appointing a Lord of Misrule.
From A Survey of London by John Stow: Reprinted from the text of 1603.
‘…in the feaste of Christmas, there was in the kings house, wheresoeuer he was lodged, a Lord of Misrule, or Maister of merry disports, and the like had yee in the house of euery noble man, of honor, or good worshippe, were he spirituall or temporall.’
During the late medieval and early Tudor periods in England, Lord of Misrule, also called Abbot Of Misrule, or King Of Misrule, was appointed to manage the Christmas festivities held at court, in the houses of great noblemen, in the law schools of the Inns of Court, and in many of the colleges at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford.
His reign lasted anywhere from 12 days to 3 months and his role was to direct the masques, processions, plays, and feasts. Although this was mostly a British custom, in ancient Rome from the 17th to 23rd of December, a Lord of Misrule took on the guise of Saturn for the feast of Saturnalia and the ordinary rules were changed so that masters became slaves and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided and could command anyone to do anything. Our contemporary Christmas holidays seem to have originated from this idea of festive holidays.
The custom began in December 1551 when the Duke of Somerset, Edward VI’s uncle Edward Seymour, was in the Tower of London awaiting execution. He sent a note to the Master of Revels to appoint George Ferrers as Lord of Misrule. Ferrers was a courtier and poet who later contributed to A Mirror for Magistrates, described by Scott Lucas as a “compendium of tragic monologues” by a series of historical personages.
Scotland had the Abbot of Unreason (suppressed in 1555) as their equivalent to the Lord of Misrule and scholars believe both ideas came from the “king” or “bishop” who presided over the earlier Feast of Fools.