Category Archives: Christmas

Mrs Daffodil’s Holiday Greetings: 2016

dolls-house-christmas-card

A wee Christmas card for the dolls house… http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/849817

Mrs Daffodil thanks her readers for their kind attention and wishes them all of the joys of the holiday season and every good thing in the New Year!

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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A Sewing Machine for Christmas: 1898

 1877-sewing-machine

I very well remember the day before Christmas in Boston some years ago, when the mail carrier brought the morning letters, and one of them had in it a check for $50 from a well-to-do friend, inclosed in a letter which said: “I have more money than time. I would like to do something to make Christmas a little more cheerful and happy to somebody, but I have no time to look up a case. You must, in your work, know of some family where this money will make the Christmas time seem a time of good will. Use it in your own way to bring the most happiness.”

While I held the letter in my hand, grateful in my heart to my friend for choosing me as the messenger of his good cheer, and wondering where I could best use it, to make it meet his requirement, I was called from my study to see a little girl from one of the worst alleys of the South Boston slums of that day. She was about eleven years of age, but though she was not large for her years, there was in her face an acquaintance with care, and a knowledge of suffering, that made her look like a little old woman.

It was a sad little tale of woe she had to tell me. Her father had been killed a few months before by falling from a building. The mother and the four children, of whom this was the eldest, were left without anything but their own resources to get a living. The mother was not strong enough to go out to wash or scrub, and so she had tried to keep the wolf from the door by sewing while the little elven-year-old was housekeeper and caretaker of the other children.

The mother had bought a sewing machine some months before, and had been trying to pay for it by installments, but had had a hard time to meet the weekly payments. She did it for a while, but when the cold weather came on in November, and they had to have coal and a little extra clothing she had fallen behind, and now, on this day before Christmas, the agent had been around, and threatened to take away the sewing machine, and then what was to become of them they could not tell.

If you could have looked in that little girl’s eyes, and heard her tale, you would have had a new conception of what a great thing a sewing machine may be, under certain circumstances. If it had been a title to heaven she was talking about, the little thing could not have been more tearfully in earnest.

I clutched my friend’s check in my hand with a sudden consciousness of what I was going to do and told the little girl to tell her mother not to worry, and that I would look the matter up and see what I could do for her.

I went at once to the sewing machine company and found that there was still owing $28 on the machine. I paid off the contract and put the receipted paper in my pocket. Then along toward evening I had a grocer load up his wagon with a barrel of flour, a barrel of potatoes, some sugar, and tea, and a whole host of goodies, including a good fat chicken for the Christmas dinner, and with some soft blankets and some warm clothing and toys for the children. I paid a Christmas eve visit to that little tenement house suite in the slum alley.

I called just ahead of the wagon, and told her I hoped she would be willing to accept a little Christmas remembrance, which a good hearted friend of mine had asked me to bring for him; and then before the astonished eyes of the mother and children the flour and potatoes, and all the good things came in, borne on the shoulders or rolled in by the big bluff grocer boys.

The woman was overcome with gratitude and the tears ran down her cheeks, while the little children danced for joy. The woman tried to thank me, and then she said what seemed to me at the time, the most pathetic thing I had ever heard.

“Do you think this good friend of yours, who has been so kind, would be willing to take back part of these things and pay the amount on my sewing machine lease?”

Poor soul, how could she be happy so long as the mortgage on her sewing machine was unappeased, and her one permanent stay in self-support threatened to be taken from her?

You can imagine the joy with which I thrust my hand into my pocket and took out the canceled lease and handed it to her, saying: “My friend wanted me to hand you this paper, too, and tell you that nobody would ever trouble your sewing machine again.”

Then there seemed nothing left to wish for. The mother grabbed both my hands, and in spite of all I could do, wet them with her kisses and tears. The children were finally speechless at such munificence, and I went out from them with my heart singing, if it were in my throat, and the tears blinding my eyes.

My only regret was that my generous friend could not see with his own eyes the joy his gift had brought, and thus be able to realize more clearly than would otherwise be possible the truth of Christ’s words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

LOUIS ALBERT BANKS

Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH] 11 December 1898: p. 30

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Banks was the author of White Slaves: or, The Oppression of the Worthy Poor, The Saloon-keeper’s Ledger, and many works on temperance and religion. He was well-positioned to seek out those in need of assistance, although Mrs Daffodil has always found the sorting of the poor into “deserving” and “undeserving” to be a trifle unjust.  Surely the Unworthy Poor are similarly oppressed and may starve just as efficiently. And, speaking frankly, where should we be if we were all given exactly what we deserved? Mrs Daffodil does not normally make a habit of it, but who can quarrel with the notion of being kind?

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers the joys of the season and all good things in the New Year. She will return on 4 January, 2017, with more jottings on fads, fashions, and follies.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

“Blind man’s bluff is little better than an insurrection:” Christmas Games: 1900

christmas-games

Why people should celebrate Christmas by playing games, is at first sight by no means plain. What possible connection is there between the Christmas anniversary and the noise, confusion, and laughter of Christmas games? When the Queen’s birthday arrives we do not feel it to be necessary to have our hair cut, or to sit on our top-hats and smash them. The recurrence of Whit Sunday does not bring with it an irresistible desire to break the household crockery or to kill the cat. Yet it would be quite as rational to do these things on the anniversaries just mentioned as it is to play games at Christmas. What, then, is the explanation of our universal custom of celebrating Christmas with games?

It will be noted that an invariable characteristic of Christmas games is their noisiness. The game with which the mistletoe is associated is necessarily noisy; Sir Roger de Coverley involves more or less uproar of an alleged musical character; and blind man’s bluff is little better than an insurrection. A quiet Christmas game is apparently never played. We thus see that noise is an essential feature of Christmas games, and this fact will probably give us a clue to their origin.

The savage has but two ways of celebrating any important event—either he over-eats himself, or he makes a horrible noise. If he can do both, so much the better. When Christmas arrives we imitate the savage with disgraceful fidelity. We gorge ourselves with roast goose or roast turkey, and we play the noisiest games that can be played outside of the football ground. Of course, we are unconscious that we are imitating savages; our conduct is simply the result of heredity. Thousands of years ago our remote ancestor, the cave man, celebrated his chief holiday— say the anniversary of the day on which he killed and ate his worst enemy—by feasting on boiled leg of rhinoceros, and by subsequently drumming as loudly as possible on the upturned and empty kettle. In these days we are not cannibals, but at Christmas we approach as closely as possible to cannibalism by eating too much roast goose. We no longer take pleasure in beating on the bottom of a copper kettle, but we feel instinctively that our greatest festival must be celebrated with noise. Thus we can explain, by the theory of heredity, the origin of our two chief Christmas customs. And the explanation is doubtless right, for, as we all know, heredity is now the correct scientific explanation of everything—from the shape of our skulls to the way in which we lie in our beds.

While we can thus account for the noise of Christmas games, we have not yet accounted for the games themselves. Why, when there are so many ways of producing noise, do we select games as the appropriate method of producing a satisfactory Christmas uproar?

What are the conditions necessary to Christmas games? They are—first, the presence of a large number of persons of both sexes, and second, their desire to endure one another with decency. Take twenty people of assorted sexes and shut them up in the drawing room on Christmas night, and each one feels that he must do something to enable him to live through the evening. To sit still and reflect that the quiet and secluded corner, which the safe digestion of the Christmas dinner so imperiously demands, is unattainable, and that the evening must be spent in conversing with uninteresting people upon tiresome themes, is something that no man will willingly do if there is a possible alternative. Games are intended to supply this alternative, and to enable the Christmas sufferer temporarily to forget his sorrows. Probably they accomplish this end to some extent, but it may be fairly questioned whether the remedy is not worse than the disease.

The supposition that there can be any pleasure derived from playing Christmas games cannot be for a moment entertained. We all know that it is not true. Take the ceremonies of the mistletoe — ceremonies which have no real title to the name of game, although they are arbitrarily classed under that head. Can there be any pleasure in kissing the wrong girl under the mistletoe? Of course, it will be said that you may kiss the right girl, but if she is only one among a dozen girls, the proportion of undesirable kisses to the one desired kiss is preposterously large. Then, can a man take any pleasure in seeing the girl of his heart kissed by other men? No matter how heavily he may have drugged himself with roast goose, the spectacle is one which fills him with secret and inexpressible rage.

There may be a sort of mild pleasure in seeing a man whom you cordially detest groping around the room with a bandage over his eyes, and occasionally abrading himself against the sharp corners of the furniture, but it is a pleasure wholly unworthy of a Christian man. The game of blindman’s bluff is exhausting, undignified, and certain to involve one in difficulties with the girls whose dresses are torn by the unconscious feet of the blindfolded man. It is true that there are redeeming points, even in blindman’s bluff; for is there not a case on record of a man who, while blindfolded, caught the family cat, and in his excitement mistook the cat’s fur for the back hair of his maiden aunt? His triumphant proclamation that he had caught Aunt Jane induced the latter to change her will the very next day, thereby depriving the blindfolded nephew of a comfortable legacy to which he had looked forward for years. Still, poetic justice seldom overtakes the man who consents to be blindfolded, and those occasions when a Christmas guest finds it possible to extract even the feeblest pleasure from blindman’s-buff are extremely rare.

Mr Fezziwig's Ball, British Library

Mr Fezziwig’s Ball, British Library

Sir Roger is simply an athletic exercise, falsely called a game. It is as tiresome as golf, and nearly as exhausting as cycling. And yet even middle-aged men who have within an hour or two eaten a Christmas dinner, are made to engage in the violent inanities of Sir Roger on Christmas evening. On the following day, when in the agonies of abdominal remorse, a man is ready to take a solemn oath never again to meddle with that fatal sport, but as sure as the next Christmas sees him still alive, he will end Christmas evening with the inevitable Sir Roger.

It may be unhesitatingly asserted that no one enjoys Christmas games who is more than ten years of age. It need hardly be said that children of that age should be in bed on Christmas evening instead of being permitted to infest the drawing-room. Their enjoyment of Christmas  games is, therefore, no excuse for the latter. We might as well excuse bull baiting on the ground that it gives pleasure to the dogs. We play Christmas games solely because an hereditary custom compels us so to do. Nobody who has arrived at years of discretion enjoys them, and ninety-nine people in a hundred detest them.

When we think of the quiet, comfortable games with which Christmas might be celebrated, the objectionable character of our present Christmas games becomes the more apparent. There is the delightful game known as ” Two in the Conservatory.” It is played by a young man and a young woman. The two retire to a quiet corner in the conservatory where they are concealed from view by flowers and vines, and there discuss in a low tone such pleasing themes as the Best Route to the North Pole, or the Kinetic Theory of Gases. Any number of young men and young women can play at this simple but charming game provided a sufficient number of quiet corners can be found in the conservatory. It can even be played on the stairs almost as well as in the conservatory, and the same young man, if he is a sufficiently accomplished player, can play a half a dozen sets with half a dozen different young women in the course of a single evening. The enormous superiority of this game to anything that is done under the mistletoe must be apparent even to the most careless observer. It involves none of the publicity, the romping, and the other disagreeable features of the latter game, though it must be confessed that, in some instances, the loser has had good cause to regret that he ever attempted to play it.

Then there is the pipe game. This is played only by men, but, perhaps, that is one of the advantages of it. The player withdraws to some quiet place, either within or without the house. Having seated himself he fills an ordinary brier-wood pipe with good tobacco, and lights the tobacco with a match. Almost any match may be used, but as a rule the wooden match is used by the best players.

The player can either finish his game in one innings with the pipe, or he can refill it and enjoy another innings. Men who habitually play this game assert that it is peculiarly adapted for Christmas evening, especially if the Christmas dinner has been a good one.

That it is vastly preferable to blindman’s-buff, or Sir Roger, is admitted by nearly all medical men; except, of course, young practitioners, who are anxious to add to the number of their patients, and look upon the usual Christmas games, with their subsequent harvest of sufferers from dyspepsia, as something especially designed for the good of the medical faculty.

I may mention one more admirable Christmas game. It is called Bedfordshire, and is one of the earliest games with which we make acquaintance in our childhood. The player retires from the drawing-room about an hour after dinner is over, and just before the orthodox Christmas games begin. When he reaches his room he removes the greater part of his clothing, puts on his night-gown, and after extinguishing the light, gets into bed. There he remains until half an hour before breakfast time on the following morning. This game ought to be a great favourite, and when a man has once learned to play it on Christmas evening, he can never be induced to play any other.

I have suffered much from Christmas games. I have played blindman’s-buff and caught the corner of a particularly hard pianoforte with my forehead. I have undergone the toil of Sir Roger, and caught pneumonia in consequence of being overheated. I have been compelled to kiss girls under the mistletoe who, I am certain, did not want to be kissed by me, and whom I certainly did not want to kiss. On the other hand, I have the memory of one delightful Christmas Eve which I spent in a rational manner. I was nearly seven hundred miles distant from my home, and I went to dine with a bachelor uncle who warned me that he detested the practice of giving Christmas presents, and uniformly refused to accept any. There was no one at the dinner-table except my uncle and myself, and about eight o’clock that excellent man said to me, “Now, nephew, I’m going to bed. There is the port, and there are the cigars, and you’ll find plenty of books in the library. Good-night!” The port and the cigars were admirable, and in the library I found a volume of Guy De Maupassant which I had never previously seen. I went to bed at ten o’clock, and I have ever since considered that my excellent uncle’s idea of entertaining Christmas guests was worthy of universal imitation.

Cassell’s Magazine, Volume 20 1900: pp 68-71

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The Sir Roger de Coverley is one of the oldest and most popular country-dances. Two lines of dancers face one other and when the music starts, dash into the centre aisle, twirling their partners round about, and then dashing back to their places. Depending on the tempo which the musicians set, it can devolve into a rout. The Mistletoe Game (which has, Mrs Daffodil believes, an American cousin called “Spin the Bottle”) is equally fraught with danger.

Mrs Daffodil thoroughly approves of the game of Bedfordshire and wishes that she could play it more often in the busy holiday season. She also applauds the Liberty Hall philosophy of the narrator’s bachelor uncle, although she does not mind receiving Christmas presents—in a rational manner, of course.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

Christmas Ghosts Doomed by Bridge in Britain: 1905

Cartoon from Punch. Caption: Instead of our usual Servant's Ball, this year I've invited the staff to come up here and watch our Bridge

Cartoon from Punch. Caption: Instead of our usual Servant’s Ball, this year I’ve invited the staff to come up here and watch our Bridge

GHOSTS DOOMED BY BRIDGE IN BRITAIN

People Are Too Busy at Cards to Bother About Christmas Wraiths

London, Dec. 30 Among the destructive effects of bridge is the total discomfiture of ghost and ghost stories without which, in the good old-fashioned days, no Christmas annual could be complete. It has no place in this years’ Christmas periodical literature, and current fiction is equally silent on the subject of the ghostly visitant who contributed to the Christmas festivities of a decade ago.

White ladies, headless monks, gray friars, wicked lords and all the vast army of spooks who were obstreperous on Christmas eve, are no longer part of the novelist’s stock in trade.

Women who anxiously inquire for a really good ghost story at the shops, meet with a blank stare of surprise. Not a single ghost story has emanated from the publishers this Christmas tide.

“Out of date,” was the terse explanation of the publisher of light literature when asked why the Christmas ghost had been exorcised. There is no demand for blood-curdling stories of clanking chains, rattling bones and dismal shrieks.

The Haunts of Ghosts

Dreary tumble-down houses, ancient feudal castles and melancholy moated granges, as will be seen from the following list of Christmas phantoms, are their favourite haunts. All of them are pedigreed ghosts with officially recorded appearances.

At Dilston Castle, Lady Westmoreland; Cullaly Castle, the wicked priest; Beddiscombe Manor, the screaming skull; Calverley Hall, Sir Hugh Calverly; Pradenham House, Isaac Disraeli; Rainham hall, the gray lady; Corby Castle, the radiant boy; Newstead Abbey, the black friar; Brookhouse, the headless woman; Copley House, the two heads; Pomeroy Castle, the lady; Churton Hall, the lady and dog; Llyne Valley, the white horse of Llangynwyd; Holland House, Lord Holland; Bisham Abbey, the wraith of Lady Hobey; Rufford Abbey, the Cistercian father; Cheedle Rectory, the abbess of Godstown; Hampton Court, Catherine Howard and Jane Seymour.

The Spooks’ Delight.

A fine ghostly company these. Lady Derwentwater, so goes the tale, has been wont at Christmastide to revisit this earth to expiate the crime of restless ambition which impelled her to drive the Earl of Derwentwater to the scaffold.

Isaac Disraeli, father of the late Lord Beaconsfield, is said to drive a ghostly coach and pair. The beheaded form of Lord Holland used to walk in the grillroom carrying his head in his hands. The wraith of Lady Hobey carried a spectral basin, wringing her hands and vainly trying to wash out the stain of guilt, for, according to the legend, she murdered her boy because he blotted his copybook.

The Cistercian father, dressed in white, always appeared to women only, but this Christmas none of these ghosts are reported to have manifested themselves.

What is the use of their troubling, when everybody is too deep in bridge all night through to watch for them?

Bridge Is Supreme

If a census was to be taken of the amusements which occupied the guests at the country houses during the Christmas holidays it would probably be found that in sixty per cent of the cases bridge had ousted all the games associated with the old-fashioned Christmas festivities. If there were one or two children in the house they were bundled off to bed as early as possible and the house party settled down in religious silence to bridge.

In many houses the game was played for four successive afternoons and nights without a thought of turkey, plum pudding or crackers. The one anxiety was to rush thru a short meal as quickly as possible. Bridge, in fact, killed in certain circles the old-fashioned Christmas in London. Several waif-and-stray parties were given on Christmas day, the idea being to gather together the lonesome souls who dislike noisy festivities, to pull down the blinds and play bridge from luncheon until the small hours of the morning. Tea and the short dinner were regarded as interruptions and small talk as superfluous.

The Minneapolis [MN] Journal 31 December 1905: p. 3 

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has seen, first hand, the scourge that bridge has become: meals sent back to the kitchen, untasted, beds left vacant, presents unopened beneath the tree, mistresses left neglected at house-parties, and engagements broken off without a murmur because one of the contracting parties was absorbed in sorting out a defective trick.

But the human toll is as nothing compared to the loss of the Christmas ghost story. Mrs Daffodil entreats those who are tempted to take up the fatal deck to Think. Remember those memorable childhood Christmas Eves spent lying awake, scarcely daring to breathe under the covers or staring at the door of the cupboard, wondering if it had moved. Those happy times were all because of the Christmas ghost story and those memories will be lost to future generations if the bridge set cannot shun this noxious habit. Mrs Daffodil urges you to put down the cards and the bridge tallies shaped like little Chinese lanterns, and vow to keep alive the traditional Christmas ghost narrative. Posterity, and the terrified children of Britain, will thank you.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

This has been an encore posting of a piece originally posted in 2013.

 

The Christmas Tree Dance: 1921

christmas-tree-outfit

CHRISTMAS TREE DANCE IS NOVEL

Young Folks in Christmas Tree Ornament Costumes Suggest Holiday Spirit

When the high school and college crowds of young people gather at home for the Christmas holidays nothing pleases them quite so much as a dance. And the more novel it is the better. This Christmas tree dance, for the school set, should hold plenty of suggestions, for when younger folks plan a good time they never seem to consider anything too much trouble to make the affair a success.

It is especially appropriate for a dance given in a large hall, but it could be very easily adapted to the home, where the rugs are rolled back from the polished floors, which may be sprinkled with boric acid to make them smoother.

On Disks of Gold.

Send out your invitations on disks cut from gold or silver paper pasted on thin cardboard and tied with a loop of gold or silver cord. These will be readily recognized as Christmas tree balls, after the invitation, written on the reverse side of the cardboard, has been read:

To a costume dance on Christmas eve (or at Christmas time)

I bid you heartily,

Come dressed up like an ornament

To decorate my tree.

The living room or the hall can be turned into a huge Christmas tree by hanging branches from ceilings and walls. Use dark green twine for the purpose, loop it around the branch which has been cut from the tree and hang it with pushpins or picture hooks to the wall.

Buy Tinsel Only.

Let your only bought decorations for the branches be tinsel, the fine thread kind. Cut out of every kind of colored cardboard and from the silver and gold paper circles of all sizes, looping them with strings of various lengths to the branches. The effect will be most decorative. If the hall is large you could stand an untrimmed tree in each corner and in the center have one trimmed with tiny electric lights to be danced around during the evening.

When Guests Arrive.

When the guests arrive they will find their dance programs to be very different from the usual book and pencil affair. They are really little Christmas trees cut from stiff green paper made double and the edges pasted together. In the tree are cut slits at regular intervals, as many as there are to be dances, and into each slit tiny candles cut from red or white cardboard are slipped. These candles are numbered and can be pulled out like small tags and on each one there will be room enough to write the name or initials. It might be a good plan to have the white candles for the favor dances and the red ones for the dances to be exchanged. A red pencil is tied with a red cord through the tip of the tree.

There are many novel costumes representing Christmas tree ornaments. Besides the Santas and dolls there could be a popcorn girl, jumping jack, gingerbread men, fairies, candles, tartalan candy bag or stocking, icicle, snowman, candy toys, etc. All of these costumes can be made out of cambric, cardboard or crepe paper with very little trouble.

The favor dances can be brought into the spirit of the evening very easily. For instance, there can be a Santa Claus frolic early enough in the evening to make all acquainted. Santa, who is the host or the master of ceremonies, stands under his Christmas tree with  collar of sleigh bells in his hand. These he shakes as a signal for the partners to stop dancing and form a ring which dances around the tree until his bells signal again to break up, girls to the left, boys to the right. A third signal stops them in their opposing rings and sends them off with new partners. To make even more fun Santa can suggest all sorts of figures. Thus when all are in the ring he can shout, “All around on one foot only!” Those who stumble or lose their balance may fall out.

Idaho Statesman [Boise, ID] 11 December 1921: p. 6  

dancing-round-the-christmas-tree

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Although electric lights were increasingly advocated for Christmas-tree safety, there were still concerns and fires. One can only imagine the opportunities for accidental combustion when pairing persons in crape-paper costume directed by Father Christmas to hop on one foot around the tree.

Perhaps Mrs Daffodil is too censorious; she is not pleased by the suggestion of boric acid on the polished floor. Dancing will raise a toxic dust and the powder will only make more work for the house-maids. Do the thing properly and hire a dance-floor.

Although “Come dressed up like an ornament/To decorate my tree,” suggests the beginning of a risqué holiday “Blues” song, here are some fancy-dress costume suggestions of a Yuletide character:

christmas-tree-costume christmas-tree-costume

Mrs Daffodil has previously written on other Christmas party ideas: A toy party for the children; a rather lugubrious ghost party for the young folks, and, of course, a holiday party for pets.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

Christmas at Windsor for Tommy’s Wife and Children: 1900

A ROYAL CHRISTMAS TREE.

TOMMY’S WIFE AND CHILDREN

A FEAST AT WINDSOR

On Bank Holiday the Queen gave a sumptuous feast in Windsor Castle to the wives and children of the soldiers who are fighting her battles in South Africa. All the women married to soldiers now at the front who lived in Windsor and its neighbourhood were invited to the Castle with their children. The crown and glory of the Yuletide festival was a giant Christmas tree.

St. George’s noble hall sheltered the Christmas tree and tea party. The tree was the third of its kind seen by the Castle this year, the others being respectively for the Royal children and the household. For more than 50 Christmases they have risen and shone under her care, first for her children, then for her children’s children.

A GIANT CHRISTMAS TREE.

Twenty-five feet was the height of the Christmas tree, brought from Windsor Forest. It seemed to touch the roof, but that was an illusion, there being seven feet to spare. A most imposing spectacle it was, its branches bearing countless silvered globes, little flags, and, what the humble guests—especially the young ones—approved still more, toys, packages, of sweets, and other presents, for all the delightful fruit hanging on the tree was for the visitors, in addition to more bulky and useful gifts for the mothers in particular. It would have been hopeless to attempt to persuade any child that these bigger things were the natural product of a larch; therefore no attempt was made to hang them on the boughs. To the Princesses who spent Christmas with the Queen belonged the honour of dressing, or directing the dressing, of the fairy tree, but they were assisted, or hindered, by male relatives occasionally looking in with suggestions grave and gay.

THE QUEEN’S GUESTS.

There were no half-measures about the Queen’s kindness to her humble guests. She sent each an invitation on the glossiest of cards, with border, crown, and the words “Windsor Castle” all in gold. It informed them that they would be received at a quarter-past four, but it named no time for the close of the entertainment, as that might have led to hurry and an ungracious end. Nor did the card say that the Queen invited Mrs. Brown, or whoever the good lady might be. It began simply with the words, “Mrs. Brown is invited to Windsor Castle,” etc. The tickets were distributed among the women and children connected with the Blues, the 2nd Life Guards, and various regiments of the line. The guests included 40 wives and about 45 children, about two-thirds of whom belong to Reservists. Invitations for persons connected with the 1st Life Guards were received from the Castle and sent on by the officers of that regiment. In this case there were about 25 mothers and 50 little ones; so that the total number of Her Majesty’s guests was something like 160.

PRINCESSES AS WAITERS.

Arrayed in their Sunday clothes the mothers and little ones, the former trembling in some cases with excitement, and the latter bursting with expectation, found themselves punctually in the great hall, where they were visited by the Queen. There, in addition to the marvellous tree, they at once discovered delightful preparations for the tea promised by the Sovereign. They were overwhelmed when they found that nearly all the Royal inhabitants of the Castle were present, and not, as far as the ladies were concerned, as mere lookers-on.

The Queen, after seeing the women and children seated, left the hall for a time, and, on returning, was wheeled round the tables by her attendants, Her Majesty occasionally speaking a few words to the visitors. It was a delightful gathering and a private one, the Queen wishing the wives and children of her soldiers to be treated as if they were of the highest rank.

New Zealand Herald, 24 February 1900: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The casually-mentioned “battles in South Africa,” were the Boer War.

The party was a gracious gesture by Her Gracious Majesty, who would celebrate only one more Christmas before her death in January 1901.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Automobile Doll: 1914

The Automobile Doll.

There was once a little girl who had no home. Her father owned houses and lands and was worth thousands and thousands of dollars; her mother had beautiful gowns and everything she wished, and in the beginning there was a home.

One day, the little girl’s father took her on his knee and told her he had sold their home and for three years the family would do nothing but travel. At first the little girl was delighted, but one morning in London she was suddenly homesick. She wished to go back to America and sit in her own rocking-chair. But that, of course, was impossible.

“Let’s go and buy a doll,” suggested mother.

“All right,” agreed the little girl, “and let’s buy one that likes to travel!”

To Peter Robinson’s famous shop went the whole family—father, mother, and little girl; there for a gold sovereign they bought a beautiful doll from Germany.

“She hasn’t any clothes,” suggested the little girl.

“She must be dressed like a princess,” her father said, laughing.

“If that is so,” said mother, “we must take her to a court dressmaker.”

“What’s a court dressmaker?” asked the little girl. “Does it mean that all the dressmakers who have ‘Court Dressmaker’ on their signs make dresses for princesses?”

“We will see,” replied mother. Whereupon the whole family called upon a French dressmaker on Bond Street, who told the little girl that she designed gowns for the royal family and for all the titled ladies of England.

Madame agreed to provide the proper wardrobe for the doll if the little girl’s father cared to pay what it was worth. Father consented. He felt so sure little girls belonged in homes that he was willing to do anything to make his little girl forget that she had no home.

From London the family went to Paris, and from Paris they travelled all over Europe. Wherever they visited, the little girl bought treasures for the doll; in Paris, hats and gowns; in Switzerland, a tiny watch; in Holland, Dutch costumes; in Germany and Austria, beautiful little dishes; and in Italy, necklaces and jewels. Perhaps there was never a doll so bountifully supplied with personal belongings as Henrietta Maria Florabel Jane. That was the name father gave the doll one day when he wished to make the little girl laugh.

Owning things never made any one happy. The doll cared nothing for her wee fans and tiny parasols. She was soon tired of travel, and if she ever wished for anything it was for a home. She was particularly tired of the automobiles in which the little girl’s father took them flying through the country.

At the end of two years the family returned to America and, without asking the doll if she preferred staying in Boston, they took her to California for the winter.

To be sure, the doll didn’t know that the little girl’s father talked of buying a home in the West; all she knew was that from one week’s end to another she passed most of her time in an automobile.

The little girl enjoyed the rides, but the doll slid back among the cushions and fell asleep every time she had a chance. If the little girl tried to make the doll sit straight, she was sure to pitch forward.

“Her sawdust is getting all wibblywobbly,” the little girl said to her mother one day.

“Well,” laughed mother, “it is no wonder. Think how many miles the poor thing has travelled. She doesn’t seem to enjoy automobiles.”

“I never thought of it before,” remarked the little girl, “but I suppose she is like me, and would rather have a home than anything else, especially when to-morrow is Christmas. Always hanging up your stockings in a hotel fireplace! Dear me!”

It was perhaps five minutes later that the automobile broke down beside an orange grove a few miles outside of Redlands.

The doll fell asleep the minute the little girl and her mother climbed out of the back seat. The accident happened about three o’clock in the afternoon. Father walked to a ranch house and telephoned for help. Hours passed, while the family ate oranges and watched the men work at repairing the machine.

“Let’s take a walk,” suggested the little girl; “let’s go straight back through the orange grove.”

Hidden among the trees, the two came upon a tiny cottage covered with climbing roses.

“Oh, it’s a real home!” whispered the little girl.

“Children live here,” added mother.

“Yes,” the little girl went on, “and look at the tracks of bare baby feet going along by the irrigating ditch. Let’s play it’s an adventure and follow the footsteps.”

“Oh, they’re having a good time!” whispered the little girl. “Hear them laugh! Let’s hurry! Oh, it’s a Christmas-tree!”

A group of children were so busy decorating a little cypress-tree that they didn’t notice the strangers until the child and her mother saw what they were doing. They were tying paper dolls to the tree, and the dolls were cut from a merchant’s catalogue.

“To-morrow’s Christmas,” explained the oldest child, twisting her apron and digging her toes in the sand when she saw the little girl and her mother. The other children, mere babies, ran away.

“It’s a ‘streemly pretty tree,” ventured the little girl.

“It’s for the children,” went on the sister, “our children and two little boys that never even went to Redlands. Mother said we could have a tree.”

“It’s—it’s ‘streemly pretty,” repeated the little girl.

“There’s a present for everybody.” The sister’s face brightened as she spoke. “Not presents that cost money, but mother and all of us have made things and it’s going to be lovely. We’re to have it in the morning.”

“Are you going to have any presents your own self?” demanded the little girl.

“Why, yes,” was the reply. “Of course I won’t get anything big, like dolls, because our orange grove isn’t paid for yet, and you always pay for your orange grove and water tax before your mother can buy big things, but everybody’!! get something. Our mother is—is pretty, too!”

This the small sister added as she realized for the first time that the little girl’s mother was beautiful.

“I just wish,” she continued, “that we could give her something lovely. I’m afraid she’ll be disappointed.”

“Would she like a new hat?” asked the little girl’s mother.

“Would she?” echoed the small sister. “But, you see, a hat’s a big thing!”

“Can you keep a secret until to-morrow morning?” inquired the little girl’s mother as she untied a pink silk scarf and took off her hat. “Because if you can, here is a Christmas surprise for your mother.”

“That lovely hat?” gasped the small sister.

“That lovely hat!” echoed mother, laughing, while the little girl clapped her hands. “I’ll wear my scarf home.”

The sun went down and the moon rose before the automobile was in order. The cottage children were asleep when the little girl remembered Henrietta Maria Florabel Jane.

“Oh, wake up, wake up,” said she, giving the doll a shake. “You’ll never have to take another journey. Mother, mother, may I put her on that Christmas-tree? Those children will love her, and she acts as if she doesn’t like automobiles. I am sure it will make her happy to be a Christmas doll in California, and have a home!”

Through the orange grove went the whole family until they reached the Christmas tree in the shining moonlight. Father tied the doll where the little sister could reach it in the morning, and then, fearing to be seen, the three ran back to the automobile and were soon speeding away toward their hotel.

Father had planned a Christmas surprise, and, if the automobile had not broken down where it did, Henrietta Maria Florabel Jane might have ended her days in the attic of the new home instead of in the little cottage among the orange trees, where she helped the small sister take care of the babies.

“If you’re good,” the small sister used to say to the little ones, “you may hold the automobile Christmas doll.”

If smiles mean anything, the doll was happy ever after.—Frances Margaret Fox, in Little Folks.

The Unitarian Register, Volume 93, 1914

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The ever-curious Mrs Daffodil cannot help but speculate on why the gentleman sold his home and decided to travel. Was he, as the Americans say, “on the run”?

The story suggests that the automobile doll needed to be fitted for a proper travelling wardrobe at that Court Dressmaker’s establishment.

WARDROBE OF THE MOTOR CAR DOLL

The automobile doll is nothing short of entrancing. She is pretty enough to excite envy in the breast of any woman, for no matter how long the drive and how strong the wind, she arrives at the end of her journey looking as fresh as when she started out.

Over her frock she wears a light weight automobile coat made in the latest fashion. On her hands are strong automobile gloves, while her eyes are protected by miniature automobile goggles which cannot spoil her beauty, ugly as they are. For old days the automobile doll has a heavy ulster, sometimes fur lined, and a fur lined hood to keep her ears protected from biting winds. One of the newest doll importations is an automobile doll wearing a stunning automobile veil to match her coat. Kansas City [MO] Star 17 December 1907: p. 12

Perhaps then the automobile doll would have been happier, although that might have led to an altogether less uplifting ending to the story.

It is singular how dolls and Christmas are inseparably linked, particularly in Holiday numbers of illustrated papers for the Young. There is also the popular tradition of the Fairy or Angel Doll for the top of the Christmas tree.

Should her readers be interested, Mrs Daffodil has written about Cora’s Christmas Doll, The Christmas Doll House, and “Mademoiselle Frou-Frou,” a highly fashionable Christmas bazaar doll.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.