Back in early December 2014, I posted a video of Post Haste, a quirky little short film made for distribution to cinemas during World War Two, in order to encourage people to post early for Christmas – so when I found this wonderful image*, I had to revisit the subject. Anyway, you can look at it as a useful reminder if you’re as disorganised about Christmas as I am!
From the same era as Post Haste, this eye-catching illustration of an efficient-looking dog busily taking his festive parcels to the Post Office (in plenty of time, of course) sends a message that still has a resonance today, especially if you have friends and family who live abroad. Such festive reminders were commonplace during World War Two (you can see more examples of similar Christmas post-related home front propaganda here, here and here) when many people were separated from their loved ones for long periods by the effects of the conflict.
Christmas is a time for ghost stories. The long, dark, cold nights at this time of year lend themselves well to spooky tales, and today’s film clip is no exception. We’ve looked at the most famous Christmas ghost story of all on several previous occasions, but this is a very different kind of folktale to that of Scrooge and his phantom visitors.
The gothic tale of The Mistletoe Bough dates back to at least the 18th century and was traditionally told at Christmas time. It tells the story of a young couple, recently married, who decide to play a game of hide and seek during their wedding celebrations. During the fun and games, the bride mysteriously disappears. Years later, the husband encounters her ghost, and finds out exactly what happened to her on their wedding night…
The short version of the film above is a recent restoration by the BFI, and features a score by Pete Wiggs of St Etienne. Orginally directed in 1904 by Percy Stow, it is fascinating to see a film made more than a hundred years ago so clearly, and it shows how creative these early film-makers were – particularly with the ghostly special effects – while using very basic technology.
For more seasonal posts on Another Kind Of Mind, see here.
Another quirky vintage Christmas treat from the BFI National Archive. This little film was shown in British cinemas over the festive season of 1946. Watch out for the striking sequence where the toys under the Christmas tree come alive…
Merry Christmas to all of you, and I hope you’ve had a wonderful day – wherever you’ve been and whoever you’ve been with.
For more seasonal posts on Another Kind Of Mind, see here.
Remember those grumpy-looking Victorian kittens from my Christmas Day post? Well, they’re back and they’ve brought some friends, who all appear to have been at the sherry over the festive season (it’s the only possible explanation). No idea where the one in the middle got the banjo from, though…
They, and I, would like to wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year (and the rest of 2016) – and to thank you for all your support for Another Kind Of Mind in 2015; it is, as always, very much appreciated.
Now I shall leave you in peace to nurse your hangovers!
Click on the image for more information and source details.
If you’re still feeling festive, there’s plenty of seasonal reading to be found here.
Hmmm. They don’t look very happy, do they? In fact, the kitten on the right looks distinctly cross (because the one on the left has pinched his seat, by the looks….).
I hope you’re all having a wonderful Christmas Day, wherever you are.
It’s also for you if you can’t or don’t (or even don’t want to) celebrate Christmas – I hope your day is a good one too, whatever you’re doing.
And if you’re alone today, well, fix me a gin and tonic and I’ll join you, if you’d like….
Merry Christmas to you all!
(And may you be as happy as some genuinely very happy kittens…)
Incidentally, if you’re still in a festive mood and fancy some more seasonal reading, you’ll find a list of all my Christmas-related posts right here.
Personally, I think Christmas isn’t Christmas without at least one version of A Christmas Carol being on TV over the festive season (my favourite is actually the Muppets’ take on the story: it’s great fun, and remarkably faithful to the original source material, believe it or not) – and, most importantly, I re-read the book every year. However, I’ve also recently become intrigued by the many early film versions of this classic tale, particularly those made during the silent era of British cinema. And it is there that we are heading today, via the BFI National Archive.
Last year, I posted a fascinating film clip of the 1901 version, which is possibly the earliest cinema adaptation of Charles Dickens’s festive fable of redemption known to exist. This Christmas Eve, however, we’re moving forward in time by thirteen years, with a short extract from the 1914 version. Released during the first Christmas season of World War One, which, with hindsight, adds a stark layer of poignancy to the Victorian sentimentality of the story, this film is regarded as being among the best Dickens adaptations of the period.
Back in 2012, I wrote about the history of that well-loved icon of a London Christmas – the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree. Recently, while looking for something else entirely (as is always the way!), I came across a couple of vintage pictures of what appears to be the first tree to go up in the Square back in 1947, which I thought I would share with you this Christmas. From two different sources (click on each image for more information), these pictures were taken from different angles and seemingly by different photographers, but they clearly show the same tree and the crowds of Londoners who came to see it.
We love the robin. This cheeky, cute little garden bird with its distinctive red breast and vivid song is a popular visitor to feeders and bird tables all round the UK – and it is one of the animals we most closely associate with Christmas too. But how well do we really know this much-loved creature? And why is it connected to the festive season anyway? Today, I’m going to attempt to find out more…
The European robin (Erithacus rubecula) is a common sight all year round and across the country, favouring hedgerows, gardens and parks in particular. They eat worms, seeds, insects, and fruit; frequently provided by us humans. They often nest quite close to us too – sometimes in unusual and unexpected places such as sheds, hanging baskets, discarded kettles or pots, and farm machinery – and have two broods of young a year, often more. The birds and their nests are protected by law.
Both the male and female adult robins have red breasts (young birds are a sort of spotty golden brown), and it is these red feathers that seem to trigger the highly territorial nature of this otherwise innocuous-looking small bird. Indeed, they will often aggressively defend their territory, and have been known to viciously attack other robins they perceive as a threat – and scientists have found that they will also go for small stuffed ‘toy’ robins or even clumps of red feathers!
Their attractive song is used to find a mate, although it is also part of their territorial display. Both the male and female sing, and have different songs for different times of the year, depending on the song’s purpose. During the summer time, territories will be held by mated pairs who defend it together, but by the time winter rolls round, each robin will be singing noisily to protect its own individual patch.
Ask any average person in the UK what they know about mistletoe and the majority of respondents will probably mention the tradition of kissing under it at Christmas. A few might know something about its possible much earlier connections to Druidry – but it’s the snogging most people focus on, for obvious reasons! Like the young lady in the image to the right I’m not too keen on this aspect of the festive celebrations (she really doesn’t look very impressed with his attentions at all!), but I was curious about what else is known about this unusual evergreen seasonal plant, and I was fascinated by what I found out…
There are actually hundreds of different and often ancient species of mistletoe growing in numerous places worldwide, and new types are still being found in the wild by scientists (most recently in 2008) – but I’m going to focus on the traditional, white-berried European mistletoe (Latin name: Viscum album); the one we’re all most familiar with.
It may actually sound like it ought to be something out of a cheap horror b-movie, but mistletoe is scientifically defined as a parasitic plant. As such, it grows on the branches of various different trees, particularly favouring apple orchards. This can have a distorting effect on the growth of these trees if the mistletoe is not pruned back from time to time, preventing the tree from growing new leaves and even killing it in extreme cases.
However, and despite the slightly creepy effects of its parasitic nature, mistletoe actually plays an important role in biodiversity via its interactions with other plants and animals, which ends up creating what can only be described as the mistletoe plant’s very own ecosystem. Such complex associations between these different creatures are crucial in supporting specialist species of birds (such as the aptly named mistle thrush, which helps to distribute the plant’s seeds), insects and fungi.
Considering I don’t actually like Christmas pudding, it may seem a little strange that this is actually the fourth post I’ve written concerning the stuff in as many years (you can find the previous three here, here and here) – but I keep finding interesting and unusual historical recipes for this most seasonal of desserts! And this recipe is a particularly interesting one, which dates from sometime during the interwar period.