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Christmas - past and present, some cynical scroogy moments to consider

Updated on December 13, 2014
Christmas Cards
Christmas Cards | Source

Christmas Cards

The first Christmas card was designed for one Mr.Henry Cole of London. Circa 1843. Bully for you Henry. You created a monster.

Henry had his cards illustrated by John Callcott Horsley. The first card shows three generations of a family, all raising a glass to toast the recipient.

It’s alleged that the picture of children drinking wine may have proved controversial. One thing is for sure, it wouldn’t pass muster today.

During the 1860s the most popular card featured a dead bird. Deceased and lying on its back, tiny stiff, stick legs in the air. The verse - 'Sweet messenger of calm decay...’ I could use a few of those.

In fact it’s a good idea to keep your eyes peeled - many of these cards are valuable and a sought after item today.

One of first Cole/Horsley cards, sold in 2001, by UK auctioneers Henry Aldridge, for 22,250 GBP.

I could use one of those too.

Merry Christmas



Christmas hospitality is not so much acquired as thrust upon you. This happens to a selected few. Around September the compliments start flowing. You immediately get the drift.

‘Entertaining is your forte. You’re brilliant, always so organised. And your place is perfect for a crowd of people. And your decorations - out of this world.’

Translation - you are the answer to host Christmas lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. As if there was a question.

In true tradition the show goes on as you juggle lunch for 25 people. Despite two vegetarians, one vegan, one diabetic, several dedicated low fat dieters, and two turkey allergies, you soldier on.

Christmas hospitality can cause Christmas crisis. Consider the number of blended families. Which parent do the children spend Christmas day with? Ditto for stepchildren. Ditto for children of third or fourth marriages. This accounts for several sets of floundering grandparents who are trying to fathom who is who.

Hospitality can turn to into hospital. They are open for business on the 25th.

Tabloid Christmas

I have much respect for the bible. My upbringing cemented it. I adore the nativity story, Christmas carols, and never miss The Messiah on Christmas Eve.

However, reading the nativity story the authors don’t necessarily engage us with detail. (I’d like to say this is because they were male but I’d be accused of political incorrectness.)

Just when it's getting interesting they say - And it came to pass…

Imagine the tabloids headlines if they were publishing today. Investigative journalism would be rampant.

They would need full coverage of Mary's reaction to:

  • Joseph not booking ahead.
  • How and where was the water boiled?
  • The suitability of giving birth surrounded by curious animals. Lack of hygiene would be a major problem.
  • No epidural
  • Did she need stitches? – Joseph was a carpenter not a doctor.
  • How pleased was she to see her visitors? Some shepherds arrive after having a rendezvous with an angel. They would be interviewed in depth.
  • Three wise guys arrive by camel bearing unusual gifts. Another scoop.

Of course all social media would be involved too. Impossible to keep silence and reverence in today's marketplace.



Christmas is a difficult time to stay sane. Hands up anyone who hasn't chucked a wobbly (aussie for losing the plot) before December 24th. Queuing, parking, shopping, packing, unpacking, wrapping, unwrapping, cooking, baking, partying, and smiling, smiling, smiling.

Surely this would drive a person of the meanest intelligence around the proverbial bend. Don't ask me how I know.


Gifts for the Male

What to buy for the man who has everything. I asked a friend for her advice on this subject. See below -

Clearly men of a certain age are the most difficult to buy for. Give a guy a watch or a fountain pen and he's bewildered - 'I've already got one.' This does not happen to the female who knows that the odd diamond or whatever never goes astray.

For the patriarch of your family - guide the offspring in the right direction. Spouse may be hinting for word games but you've only just disposed of the last lot. You know how patronising he can be. - ' Keep on reading the dictionary dear'.

Pity the dictionary is online now - it made a handy weapon.

He may be a rocker from way back but enough is enough. He owns an Elvis clock with ticking legs. It's in the shed with the Julie Christie posters, the skull table lamp, the dancing coke tine, and the Brad Pitt face mask I once bought him.

It's a good idea to hint to the kids, something suitable like - 'Have you noticed they're offering a really good special on a cruise to Tahiti. Dad would love it. Two for the price of one. Jane and Mike's kids have presented their Pa with tickets. Isn't that thoughtful.'

Christmas Past

How much has Christmas has changed? Here's a bittersweet recollection from the past -

It was a special Christmas the year Billy and I turned seven.

Billy lived across the fields from my home; we were best friends. We would always live in this village. We could not imagine any other place.

On the morning of Christmas Eve the dull, grey, North of England village turned into fairy land. Thick snow glittered and sparkled,transforming the world from the roof tops to the cobbled street. Snow flakes danced past the windows which Jack Frost has painted with intricate, feathery , designs.

This glistening world beckoned – it was time to build snowmen time to taste icicles, time to pelt the church kids with snowballs. Billy and I were Chapel kids – there was an ongoing battle. There was no time to waste.

On Christmas morning soft snowflakes waltzed softly, whirling their way to the muffled earth. Clattering down stairs we found Dad clad in my mother’s red dressing gown a crepe paper hat on his bald head. Up early he had lit a roaring coal fire.

I opened the gifts in my stocking - crayons, a colouring book, Dandy annual – I loved Desperate Dan and his cow pie. Tangerines and apples, dates and figs. A celluloid doll dressed in pink and silver tulle.

There was no sign of the dolls pram I had secretly asked Father Christmas for. Billy arrived clutching a bright red engine instead of a bicycle. We said nothing of disappointment.

We were soon rewarded. In our back yard was a surprise. Dad had made us the biggest sleigh anyone had seen. The hammering, grumbling and loud cursing of previous nights was accounted for.

Dad was no handyman. His claim to infamy had been to fit a pane of glass into a broken window. In his enthusiasm he’d shattered the larger adjoining window. Mum still hadn’t forgiven him.

Delicious as Christmas dinner was we wanted to be outside with our sledge. We said grace, ate quickly – roast chicken, sage and onion , crispy potatoes. Sticky plum pudding with brandy sauce that made our eyes water but we ate it anyway.

Just as soon as we could escape Billy and I and the sisters raced outside. Together we slid down the mountain that was once our back street, leaving behind any disappointments. Our sleigh knocked the socks of any others. Even kids from the church end had nothing to compare with this. This was sweet victory.

Unbelievably our parents joined us and they too shot down the icy slope. Mum wearing her well preserved ancient fur coat fell off with a thump showing all her underwear.

Dad - enjoying his new found popularity didn’t swear when he lost some skin of his bald head. After all he was now a famous carpenter.

Back home we thawed out around the fire, experiencing throbbing pain as the circulation returned to our fingers and toes. Mum served piping hot mince pies and we’re allowed a glass of port wine. 'The King' we say and clink glasses.

Dad smoked his once a year cigar and read us stories. We were unbelieving about Bush Christmas – surely there was no such place - where children rode horses to school and the sun shone at Christmas.

Tiredness hit us quickly. Billy was carried of to the spare bed, while the pseudo Santa carpenter tucked me up. We both knew Billy and I that the snow would never melt, nothing would change, this pristine, white world belonged to us.

How wrong we were. Billy died the following may. The whole tenor of my life changed too.

Do you think Christmas is too commercial and the true spirit of the season is forgotten?

See results

Christmas Carols


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    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      Hey poetryman - love the Aussie slang. It's just like saying 'lost the plot'. Cheers...

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      3 years ago

      It's good to know that chucking a wobbly is not obscene no matter how it sounds!

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      Hi Nadine - thanks for commenting. It seems most of agree re commercialism but still enjoy the magic. All over now but alas - hot cross buns in the stores today! Very best wishes to you and yours for 2015.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Yes it is true that Christmas has become a very commercial orientated celebration, but I still love the atmosphere that hangs around the shopping malls and everywhere else. May this year be full of joy for you and your family.

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      Vellur - thank you for commenting, yes, things change and will keep on evolving I guess. Best wishes to you for the coming year...

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      3 years ago from Dubai

      Christmas is a great celebration but has become more commercialized these days. Things change and we lose near and dear ones, that is the sad part of life. Great reflections.

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      phoenix - hello and thank you. Happy you tuned it to my short childhood piece. They were quiet, unassuming days, but still memorable. Best to you and yours for christmas and 2015.

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      Jo - thank you, I'm happy my short childhood memory has touched you. Just trying to contrast the past and present.

      Yes, snap - that card fascinated me - amazing how much those early cards are worth today. Best wishes to you and yours for Christmas and 2015. Cheers, Maj

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      What a lovely story. I could see you and Billy having the time of your lives on the sledge. Mom and Dad joined in too? Brilliant. This...this is what Christmas should be about. Beautiful.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      3 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Maj, I was enthralled by your childhood memories, plum pudding and all, and so shocked by the sad ending, bitter sweet indeed.

      Snap..I can see we used the same source for our research. Brilliant hub, many truths.:)

      A Happy Christmas to you and your family.

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      Hi Kay, thanks for being here. I can't help thinking a poor dead bird on a christmas card might not be well received. But as you point out, maybe it's time to curb the commercialism. Climate change a good point. Still, I think I'll resist for the time being! Best wishes to you and yours for the Christmas season...cheers Maj

    • profile image

      Kay Readdy 

      3 years ago

      Loved the dead bird reference. And such a great picture! Symbolic perhaps? A few 'dead bird' cards might bring the commercial aspects of Xmas back in line - especially with reference to climate change. Loved it all.

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      Hey Linda, thank you for such positive comments, you say it all with style. Yes, sadly, the commercial christmas is a way of life nowadays, and somehow we go with the flow. However, on the day, I know I'll enjoy being with family and friends. Merry Christmas to you and yours and may 2015 bring you all you wish for. Cheers Maj/Maureen

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      Hi CrisSp - My Christmas shopping attempts are similar to yours, to date I haven't started. Too late to buy online. I'll begin today! Maybe!

      Thank you for comments and votes/sharing. Much appreciated. Season's greetings to you and yours.

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      handymanbill - good to have your comments. Yes Christmas decorations are earlier and earlier. And directly after boxing day the Easter eggs/hot cross buns will appear. Season's greetings to you and yours...

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      Theresa - many thanks for such glowing comments. Much appreciated - the book is swirling around, waiting for my attention. Thanks for the reminder! Season's greeting to you and yours - Maj

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      Prasetio - hello and thank you. All best wishes.

    • liesl5858 profile image

      Linda Bryen 

      3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Wow! travmaj, another brilliant hub of yours, I loved it. It is true, the true meaning of Christmas is somehow lost this days. People seem to worry about gifts, cooking Christmas dinner, where they go for Christmas instead of having a peaceful Christmas, it turns to disaster and people fall out. I like your hub because it reminds people of what Christmas is all about. Enjoying Christmas as a family. Well done again. Voted up. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Maureen.

    • handymanbill profile image


      3 years ago from western pennsylvania

      Christmas seems to be more commercial every year. It start earlier and earlier. I remember when people didn't start decorating till thanksgiving. Still it is a wonderful time and is what people make it. Merry Christmas to everyone.

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      Nell - hello and thank you. The short excerpt was from a 'memoir' - gosh what a long time ago. Scary! But losing Billy really made an impact on me then and I've never forgotten. Just contrasting Christmas past and present. I'll enjoy the day with friends and family but the commercial lead up is crazy. Happy Christmas to you Nell and best for 2015. Maj.

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      MizBejabbers - Hello and sorry I confused you re the kids. I’m not totally sure I know the answer myself. The primary schools were affiliated with either the Church of England or the Congregational Church (known as the Chapel) So much village rivalry. Billy was in a road accident.

      This was a short excerpt from a memoir, it seemed to fit the Christmas has changed theme..

      Thank you so much, I appreciate your comments greatly. I agree with your dad, christmas is a truly a time for children. Trouble is, all mine have flown the coop. Anyway, wishing you the best christmas day and a healthy happy 2015. Maj.

    • CrisSp profile image


      3 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      What a delightful mixed of Christmas canvas travmaj!

      I don't go crazy anymore on Christmas shopping unlike in my younger days. I just can't stand the crowd anymore and I don't have much patience to get into the queue. Guess, it's a sign...getting old indeed. :)

      "Hospitality can turn to into hospital. They are open for business on the 25th." Ha..ha..ha...I love this!

      Brilliant hub! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

      Voting up and definitely sharing the goodness.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Oh travmaj - What a great hub and what wonderful stories from your life and childhood. I loved it. I want to read more. In fact, I want to read the book! Blessings and Merry Christmas! Theresa

    • prasetio30 profile image


      3 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Beautiful hub. That's way Christmas always beautiful. Thanks for sharing with us. Voted up and have a nice day!


    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      3 years ago from England

      Hi travmaj, yes Christmas has lost its sparkle in many ways, sorry to hear that about your young friend, that must have been awful. But I loved your story about the sledge, and the snow etc. I don't mind Xmas, but it does go on a bit on tv doesn't it?

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      3 years ago from Beautiful South

      Sorry, this American doesn’t know the difference between a church kid and a chapel kid. Explain, please.

      This story really gave me that warm fuzzy feeling until I got to the part where “Billy died the next day.” That brought tears to my eyes. Why did he die, I will always wonder?

      Yes, I think Christmas has lost most of its meaning. I was driving past the mall the other day and an old childhood saying came to mind, “greasy grimy gopher guts”. I thought to myself just change the wording to “greedy grimy gopher guts”. I was actually referring to the merchants. I think most people would rather keep Christ in Christmas and give a handmade gift like a quilt or mama's peanut brittle than spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars in an obligatory ritual. My dad used to say that Christmas was for children. (He meant gift giving)

      Any hub that gives me tears gets voted up by me.

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      Hi Flourish, thank you, I really appreciate your input at this busy time. Yes, a memory from the past contrasts weirdly with christmas today. But that's progress I guess. Best wishes for a good one...cheers

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      Thanks Bill - just observing the festive season with a touch of pessimism. When I've finished my shopping and the day arrives it will be magical, no doubt. Best wishes as usual -

    • travmaj profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from australia

      Hi Elsie, Yes, Christmas really is amazingly commercial and no doubt it will continue to evolve. Help. Mind you, with the kids grown now , and they are the best at Christmas, I'm probably in sour mode. Best wishes - Maj

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well there is no doubt that Christmas is too commercial, but it seems like it always has been, so I guess I ignore that part of it. Christmas will always be a magical time for me. :) Wishing you and yours a marvelous Christmas season.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      This had it all. Your recollections of childhood Christmases definitely tugged at the heart. Much enjoyed.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      3 years ago from New Zealand

      Yes the true meaning has been lost over the years. We need to stop and think about the reason for this season.


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