Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Cards Old and New

Some years I just throw them out--and then feel guilty for doing that--but this year I hung up a string across our living room to hold all the lovely Christmas cards we received from family and friends. And then, a few days ago, I added a second string because the first one was full.

Some of the cards are silly--smiling snowmen, grimacing gingerbread men. Some of the cards are serious--creches, stars, and wise men. About half of them are photos of friends from far away.

The history of the Christmas card goes back to the Victorian era. The BBC has an interesting article on Christmas traditions that originated during this time period and has this to say about the cards:
In 1843 Henry Cole commissioned an artist to design a card for Christmas. The illustration showed a group of people around a dinner table and a Christmas message. At one shilling each, these were pricey for ordinary Victorians and so were not immediately accessible. However the sentiment caught on and many children - Queen Victoria's included – were encouraged to make their own Christmas cards. In this age of industrialisation colour printing technology quickly became more advanced, causing the price of card production to drop significantly. Together with the introduction of the halfpenny postage rate, the Christmas card industry took off. By the 1880s the sending of cards had become hugely popular, creating a lucrative industry that produced 11.5 million cards in 1880 alone. The commercialisation of Christmas was well on its way.

The oldest Christmas card -- only 10 survive today
of the original printing of 1000 cards.

Nowadays Christmas cards are hugely popular--one estimate says that there are 1.9 billion Christmas cards sent annually.

This year was a lean year for us, and as much as I love doing it, we weren't able to have cards printed to mail to friends and family. But despite that, I was able to put together a digital version of a Victorian tradition and share it with family and friends via e-mail and Facebook.

Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

If Not for the Hundred Years' War, Would Shakespeare Have Written in French?

Today, over at the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, I take a short look at what prompted the change from the use of French to the use of English as the "proper" language in England.
The St. Crispin’s Day speech, written by Shakespeare and placed in the mouth of King Henry V, contains some of the most stirring phrases in the English language. Yet, interestingly enough, that very language might not have been what spilled from Shakespeare’s pen had the Hundred Years’ War not been fought.... (read more)
And speaking of English, here's a shameless plug for a book written by English Historical Fiction Authors...not all of them English themselves, but instead, people from all over the world who write English Historical Fiction. I have a few essays in there myself--fun stuff about Bede, William the Conqueror, and the Black Plague.

Elizabeth Chadwick calls it recommended "leisure reading for any history fan." If you're looking for that hard to buy person on your Christmas list, this book might be just the ticket. :-)

Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors

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