Monday, December 15, 2014

A Little Christmas Trivia



















  When I was a kid, Christmas was a magical time of year. Shortly after Thanksgiving, ol' Mac would start to receive the Christmas trees that he chose back in October. He owned Mac's Trading Post and was one of the main suppliers of Christmas trees for the area. I've always enjoyed the sights and sounds and smells of Christmas. In northern climates the days tend to be dark and gloomy and the extra lights and colorful tinsel help to brighten the season. As an adult I still enjoy the the bright colors and whatnot, but even more so I enjoy receiving Christmas cards. You get to hear from friends who you might not have contact with any other time of year. Usually there's always some relative who sends a brief history of what they or their kids are doing in a type-written mass produced letter. It's nice to know what little Johnny is doing...I guess. I just wish they would include some real world experiences. If one were to believe what was written, you would be led to believe that their world was practically perfect, with mom being in charge of the garden club, Dad receiving a huge bonus, the family building a new second vacation home to take advantage of the beach in the winter, and both kids being put on the deans list at college for academic excellence. I'd like a little shot of reality. "Well, we had the annual family get together. Grandpa got drunk and passed out at the table. Grandma forgot to put on her Depends and we spent an hour cleaning the dining room chair. The kids spent the whole Christmas vacation fighting over the remote and the water heater broke down while I was trying to get a shower." That's a letter I could believe. Anyway, back to the Christmas cards. I do enjoy getting them. From what I can gather, the first Christmas cards were developed back in 1843 in England. Sir Henry Cole commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley to come up with a design for the cards. Sir Henry was a government worker and I believe he was looking for a way to get people to utilize the new postal service. Horsley received fame for being a bit of a prude, campaigning against using nude models as subjects for art. He was nicknamed Clothes Horsley for his efforts. Some more bits of trivia- 45% of all the cards sent in the U.S. are Christmas cards. 72% of people aged 8- 24 send out cards, while a whopping 91% of those of us over the age of 55 send them out. At least that's the way it was a few years ago. In 2008 the average American family spent $32.43 on Christmas cards. I don't know if that includes postage or not. I seldom buy cards anymore. We receive quite a few from various charitable organizations we support, and even some from those we don't support. I guess they think that if they send me something I'll feel obligated to send them something. Maybe we could just exchange Christmas cards. I kind of wish the folks who make hoochies and King Salmon spoons and other assorted fishing gear would send me some Christmas samples. I'd gladly send them a card in return. While Christmas cards in Europe were taking off, the first commercial American cards didn't really catch on until 1875, when Louis Prang, a German born lithographer started producing them. He became known as  "the father of the American Christmas card."Apparently his cards didn't feature the typical Christmas scenes, but rather different kinds of flowers. They were quite expensive too and he went out of business. Not to fear though, old Louis teamed up with the American Crayon Company and got into the water color business. I well remember the boxes of Prang Water Colors that were part of every elementary school child's supplies. The company is still in business, so I guess he did something right. The other day I bought some Christmas cards at the annual Christmas bazzar at the school. My daughter Jen 's 3/4 class was selling cards to raise money for a little girl in Utah who is suffering with a debilitating disease that threatens to take her life soon. She was featured on CNN and would like to receive cards from all over. We sent her one with a few post cards of Hoonah. I'll try to find her address if anyone out there would like to send her one. Anyway, that's about what I've got. Hope you feel enlightened or at the very least entertained.





4 comments:

  1. I do feel enlightened as a matter of fact. And yes, if you could find that address I would also like to send her a card!

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  2. I'll have to get the address from Jen. I'll try to get it to you soon.

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  3. Good column. I always loved the Prang paints and crayons in the black boxes, although I've always been partial to the smell of a newly-opened Crayola box. And I'm all for "Reality" Christmas Newsletters - those idyllic missives really frost my cookies!

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  4. I don't know if I've ever had the crayons, but I did have the paints. Over the years we've received a few of those ultra- optimistic or daydream letters or whatever you want to call them. They'd be funny if they weren't so damned irritating.

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