25 October 2016

Rudolph Day, October 2016

"Rudolph Day" is a way of keeping the Christmas spirit alive all year long. You can read a Christmas book, work on a Christmas craft project, listen to Christmas music or watch a Christmas movie.

And it's now just two months until Christmas! What are you doing to prepare? Perhaps reading some Christmas books?

A Country House Christmas, John Chandler
Fans of Downton Abbey, plus the older British dramas like Upstairs, Downstairs, The Duchess of Duke Street, and Flambards would probably love this compilation volume from Sutton (part of their "Christmas in..." series of British memories). Passages are taken from the real-life country house reminisces of Phyllis Sandemann, Harold MacMillan, Kenneth Grahame, and Hilaire Belloc among others; fiction in country houses is supplied by the pens of Charles Dickens and Washington Irving (and a nice skewer of the country house set is given in the humorous "Christmas at Boulton Wynfevers"), plus there's the jaw-dropping tale of a real-life mad Christmas Eve in the 1930s delivering "Milord's" gifts ("Pheasants by Taxi"); and many-day-by-day diaries of guests in country homes (and a letter to her mother from one harried hostess). Old favorites like "The Mistletoe Bough" and Robert Herrick's classic Candlemas poetry, plus vintage illustrations, photographs of country estates, and Randolph Caldecott art round out this nostalgic volume.

Christmas Ornament Legends from Old World Christmas 
The Old World Christmas company supplies traditional glass ornaments in Christmas shops all over the country (including The Incredible Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, TN, Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, MI, and the Yankee Candle Flagship Store in Deerfield, MA), made in Germany by third- and fourth-generation craftsmen (but at an affordable price as opposed to Radko ornaments). This little gift book is worth finding for a dollar or two; it mixes old Victorian "scrap" illustrations (mostly of St. Nicholas/Father Christmas/Santa Claus) with pretty full-color photographs of their ornaments that have meaning behind them (grapes for fruitfulness, for instance, or rabbits for good luck) or rare ornaments like the "John Bull" or "Spark Plug" figurals. Cute if you can find one at a reasonable price.

Don't you love the Santa Claus at left? I really love the Victorian Santa Clauses in their hooded robes rather than the modern Santa in his fire-engine red pants, jacket and tassel cap. Some Victorian Santa Clauses even dressed in other colors than red—palest of blues, off-white, green—as shown in these Google images. Even better, a search on "vintage st. nicholas illustrations" brings this delightful result.

Did you know that two of the oldest Christmas songs—not Christmas carols or hymns about the birth of the Christ Child, but songs about the secular side of the celebration—are both about Santa Claus? "Up on the Housetop" was written in 1864 and "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" in 1881. ("Jingle Bells" was written in 1857, but isn't about Christmas—it's a song about taking your girl out alone on a fast ride, as later generations would use a sports car.)

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