Continuing on my Christmas Theme of exploring the history behind the traditions we follow in modern times, today I’m looking at Ringing Bells, sending Christmas Cards, and pulling Christmas Crackers before eating a traditional Christmas meal.
Tomorrow I’ll have more about Christmas trees and delicious mince pies and puddings.
Enjoy your festive wanderings through my snowy blog,
Bells Beautiful Bells
They hold a long time association with Christmas – In Victorian times, carol singers used small handbells to play the tune of the carol – Some times there were bells without singing – Church bells are rung after sunset to signal the start of the Christmas Eve service, the first of Christmas.
The custom was started in the UK in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. He was a civil servant who wanted ordinary people to become more interested in the new ‘Public Post Office’. With his artist friend John Horsley, they designed the first card and sold them for 1 shilling each. The card had three panels and the outer two showed people caring for the poor and the centre was a family having Christmas dinner! Some people disliked the idea of a child being given a glass of wine.
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 popular when printing improved and could be produced in large numbers (approx1860). By the early 1900s, the custom had spread over Europe, especially in Germany.
Early cards usually pictured Nativity scenes but in late Victorian times, robins and snow-scenes became popular because the postmen wore red uniforms and were nicknamed ‘Robin Postmen’ . Snow-scenes were popular because they were a reminder of the very bad winter of 1836.
First made in 1850 by a London sweet maker called Tom Smith who decided it would a fun idea if his sweets and toys opened with a crack when their fancy wrappers were pulled in half. In the countries that now use them, a cracker is set next to each plate on the Christmas dinner table and a colourful party hat, a toy or gift and a festive joke falls out when the cracker is pulled in half with a loud bang! The party hats look like crowns, supposedly to symbolise the crowns worn by the Wise Men.