|Victoria, Albert and the kids gather |
around the Christmas tree, 1848
The 1840's was also the decade when another tradition began: Christmas cards appeared and gained in popularity. I suppose the cards were somewhat of a novelty--a colorful and possibly economical way to wish the best of the season to family and friends. However, as you see from the examples here, some of the subject choices strike the modern viewer as bizarre and not as "merry" as we're used to seeing. The Victorians rarely passed up a moralizing opportunity: The dead bird motif, for example, was a reminder that death claimed too many young children, especially those living in poverty. So the subtext of the dead bird would be to remember the less fortunate with donations while you celebrate the season. But as for that killing frog and Santa stuffing a child into a sack, "[s]ome of that significance", says Meier, "is now lost to history." However, no motif or image would have appeared on a card if there were any chance the Victorian sender or recipient wouldn't "get it". So weird as they appear to us, be assured our Victorian ancestors "got" these images.
Have fun figuring out what the subtext in some of these postcards might have been.
|Victorians liked cats. Maybe a bit too much.|
|Nothing says have a joyful Christmas like a dead bird.|
|The verse explains the frogs asked their mother if they could skate on|
the ice. She said "No". They did it anyway. Like the bird, they're dead.
Subtext here is pretty obvious.
|"The black ants invaded by the red ants" The red ants' banner says|
"The compliments of the season". Good luck figuring out this one!
|OK. We talked about this one.|
|This Santa does not look jolly. Was the Krampus busy elsewhere?|
Happy Christmas. Your snowman is "dying".
|Obviously, Victorians liked frogs almost as much as they liked cats.|
Meier, A. (2015). "Have a creepy little Christmas with these unsettling Victorian Cards". Retrieved 5 December 2019 at https://hyperallergic.com/261847/have-a-creepy-little-christmas-with-these-unsettling-victorian-cards/