Another Kind Of Advent Calendar 2020: December 5th

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Welcome to the Another Kind Of Advent Calendar! Every day until Christmas Eve, I’ll be posting a little something unexpectedly Christmassy for you in honour of the festive season. It’s been the weirdest year, so let’s have a bit of fun…

Is it just me, or is this photograph decidedly creepy? All those dolls… The fact that there’s very little information available about it makes it even more mysterious – and most of what I can tell you is frustratingly vague and incomplete.

Taken some time between 1910 and 1915, possibly in New York City, and distributed via the Bain News Service, this image shows a department store Christmas display window absolutely chock-full of a disturbing number of dolls.

The darker side of Christmas presents?

Don’t have nightmares…

If you’re feeling festive, you can find lots more Christmas reading and watching from me here – there are now over a decade’s worth of seasonal posts to explore…

Another Kind Of Advent Calendar 2020: December 4th

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Welcome to the Another Kind Of Advent Calendar! Every day until Christmas Eve, I’ll be posting a little something unexpectedly Christmassy for you in honour of the festive season. It’s been the weirdest year, so let’s have a bit of fun…

So, do aliens believe in Santa Claus? Do little green men hang their little green stockings up on Christmas Eve? Is Santa’s sleigh actually a UFO (Unidentified Festive Object)? Can Rudolph spacewalk on all four hooves in zero gravity?

According to these fab American pulp sci-fi magazine covers from the late 1950s, the answer to all these questions would seem to be a resounding yes. After last year’s visit to the Christmas celebrations on the ISS, I thought it would be fun to see how fictional spacefarers enjoyed the festive season – so I turned to the pages of one of the most well-known science fiction magazines of the immediate post-war era.

Galaxy Science Fiction may have been somewhat pulpy, but it was also hugely influential and did great Christmas covers (as you can see in the slideshow below). It ran between 1950 and 1980, and was known for publishing work by classic writers like Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, and Harlan Ellison alongside specially commissioned and distinctive cover artwork.

I love the contrast between the determinedly traditional appearance of Santa and the space-age setting in most of these festive cover images – in a lot of ways, this is a reflection of the uncertainties of the period. Post-war reconstruction and the desire for peace and familiarity butted up against the beginnings of the space race and the technology of the Cold War to create something new and perhaps a little unsettling by the middle of the 20th century.

Put simply, these illustrations were bringing our Mr Claus bang up to date, the old and the new neatly combining to create a different take on Santa – something that was already often a feature of 20th century representations of everyone’s favourite seasonal gift-bringer, as we have seen before (at least the reindeer get a look in this time!).

One hopes this space-age, up-to-date Santa manages to get round the whole galaxy on Christmas Eve, and that the aliens remembered to leave out a mince pie or two to fuel his journey…

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If you’re feeling festive, you can find lots more Christmas reading and watching from me here – there are now over a decade’s worth of seasonal posts to explore…

Another Kind Of Advent Calendar 2020: December 2nd

Black and white postcard from 1914 of a small and grumpy tabby cat dressed in a winter coat and muff, pulling a sled piled with presents.
“Honestly, Tabby. I told you we should have taken the bus…”

Welcome to the Another Kind Of Advent Calendar! Every day until Christmas Eve, I’ll be posting a little something unexpectedly Christmassy for you in honour of the festive season. It’s been the weirdest year, so let’s have a bit of fun…

After yesterday’s aquatic Christmas tree, hiding behind the second door of the Another Kind Of Advent Calendar is an old festive favourite round these parts…

Yes! The Grumpy Victorian Kittens are back! And this year they’ve been Christmas shopping – although this particular kitty looks quite seriously grumpy about it.

I can relate.

Actually, this one isn’t technically Victorian since this photo was taken in 1914, and she comes from the collection of the New York Public Library, which probably explains a lot – she’s definitely got that New York [c]attitude!

In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen such an exasperated and fed up kitty in a long time (and I once had to give a cat a bath). She quite rightly looks like she wants to escape from this weird human who has put her in these stupid clothes to take stupid photos of her and go home to curl up in front of the fire. I don’t blame her…

If you’re feeling festive, you can find lots more Christmas reading and watching from me here – there are now over a decade’s worth of seasonal posts to explore…

Another Kind Of Advent Calendar 2020: December 1st

Welcome to the Another Kind Of Advent Calendar! Every day for the next twenty four days, I’ll be posting a little something unexpectedly Christmassy for you in honour of the festive season. It’s been the weirdest year, so let’s have a bit of fun…

Behind the first door of our 2020 Advent Calendar is a scene from a 1950s Christmas in Florida. We’ve visited Floridian festivities in previous years, but this time our stopping point is a little more glamorous than simply joining Santa in chilling on the beach (sorry Santa!).

Today we are visiting the Wheat family in Fort Lauderdale – and like Floridians at Christmas generally, they don’t necessarily do things the traditional way. I mean, I don’t know about you, but Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a floating tree in your swimming pool, is it!?

If you’re feeling festive, you can find lots more Christmas reading and watching from me here – there are now over a decade’s worth of seasonal posts to explore…

Halloween Spook Special: Scary Monsters and Super Creeps

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Life’s no fun without a good scare – ‘This Is Halloween’ (Nightmare Before Christmas)

I love horror movies. There’s something so cathartic about a good scream when a zombie lurches up behind you, don’t you think?

There have been horror movies as long as there has been film. There are clever and ingenious ghostly special effects in a pre-World War One cinematic adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, still guaranteed to give you a delicious shiver and make you jump. A vintage favourite of mine, FW Murnau’s Nosferatu (an early and very unofficial adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula), was made back in 1922 and is still genuinely groundbreaking – and genuinely scary.

Continue reading “Halloween Spook Special: Scary Monsters and Super Creeps”

Bringing in the Mistletoe (1959)

Boys from Trawsfynydd collecting holly and mistletoe to sell (December 1959)

I’ve been seeing a lot of Christmas decorations going up this last week or so (although someone on my street has actually had their tree up since Halloween!). I’m still catching up a bit, I’ve only just dragged my tree out of the cupboard where it lives for the rest of the year – although I have bought some cute new ornaments already and have been wondering where I might get some sprigs of holly to add to the festive wreath I hang on my front door.

These cheerful young lads might have helped me in that last respect. They’re from the Welsh village of Trawsfynydd, and they have been preparing for Christmas in traditional fashion by gathering festive greenery from the local area.

Photographer Geoff Charles has caught these 1950s schoolboys on their way to the market to sell their carefully gathered bundles of holly and mistletoe; green winter treasures that are destined to decorate the houses and cottages of the village for Christmas – and earn these young entrepreneurs a bit of pocket money towards festive expenses too…

The lads in this charming 1959 photograph from the National Library of Wales collection would have had an amazing natural environment to grow up in, and Christmas traditions connected to the landscape like gathering seasonal greenery for the home or for sale would likely have been a longstanding custom repeated by successive generations of kids and adults.

Bringing in the mistletoe and taking it to market was a tradition rich in symbolism elsewhere too, which you can see in these 18th and 19th-century images of mistletoe sellers from France and Switzerland. It is pleasing to report that mistletoe markets remain part of the Christmas season in numerous places to this day.

For lots more Christmas reading (and viewing) from me, click here

 

Post Early For Christmas… Again!

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‘Christmas Mail’ (c. 1910-15)

In recent years, we’ve met the world’s most organised dog, a clumsy wartime comic and some of the people of Christmas, Florida (watch out for more from them soon!), who were all united in explaining how to get your cards, presents and letters to Santa in the post in plenty of time for the festivities.

I’ve been a bit rubbish with my Christmas post this year, but I loved these festive mail-related images. The black and white photographs are all American, probably taken in and around the Washington DC area, and the brightly coloured adverts (below) are from wartime Britain again.

Continue reading “Post Early For Christmas… Again!”

Creepy Vintage: Gas Mask Replica*

A group of children wearing gas masks, accompanied by nursing staff (December 1917)

I found these images whilst rummaging through a huge number of official and public domain archive photos taken during both World Wars, and they immediately stood out in a flash of weirdness. There is something very creepy about old black and white photos of people wearing gas masks, and these examples are distinctly odd…

The picture above was taken in 1917 and shows a group of (probably) Dutch children during a gas mask drill. This is easily the creepiest of the photos I found, mainly because there’s something so alien about these kids in their protective gear.

Below, you’ll see a 1942 shot of a group of ATS women in the Middle East wearing their gas masks and respirators, posed and staring almost dead-eyed at the camera. I don’t know if it’s just me, but they look like they’re about to gatecrash a very tense scene in a vintage episode of Dr Who (or some other very British sci-fi show) and send me scuttling behind the sofa…

Women soldiers with gas masks - World War Two

*Apologies for the mangled Captain Beefheart reference in the title!

For more Halloween reading (and watching), click here…