Weird Victorian Christmas Cards

Victorians had some odd habits, one of which was to send each other Christmas cards which were, to put it mildly, a little weird.

Because I collect vintage ephemera, as well as sell it and use it to make reproduction items, I’ve long been fond of cataloging some of the odder Victorian cards. Many use animals in anthropomorphic poses doing unexpected things.

Some I’ve purchased, some just done screen shots of, because they can be hideously expensive, and I can only justify spending so much on a 100+ year old piece of paper, no matter how fantastic and bizarre.

I’ve made the ones I’ve purchased into repro items in my Etsy shop, but thought I’d post a gallery of some of those which have tickled my fancy the most.

This is one of my favorites, The Kindly Robin, which shows a prosperous bird family donating to some downtrodden beggar birds:
wm-kindly-robin-1a
Another of my favorites is The Dancing Owls with their frog footman, carrying a roast mouse for their holiday feast: WMNew Year Owls 200

Then there’s The Owl and the Pussycat, in a more morbid twist of that phrase:
wm-mousies-3

And these three Fish Eating Dinner:
wm-three-fish-1bg

Victorians had a particular passion for plum pudding, as in The Jesters card shows:
wm-here-we-are-1a

And this great card showing the Robin Cook and the Plum Pudding:
wm-pudding-1c
Now here are some really odd ones (which I did not purchase and which I have not retouched or cleaned up in any way), a gallery for your amusement:

A bee wearing an apron and a bizarre flower with a big nose:
bee-flower-1

A fish who’s been fishing.
fish-card-1

A blind man about to be run down by a runaway horse in the road:
blind-man-horse

Ducks ice skating:
ducks-1a

Stingray fishermen. What more is there to say?
stingray-fishermen

And there’s a whole subset of these cards devoted to insects. Here are a few:

red-bugs

snail-bugs

fairy-queens-messenger

And best of all, insects dancing with a frog. Gotta love it!
frog-and-bugs

I hope these odd beauties have given you pleasure, enjoy the holiday season!

The Lost Art of the New Year’s Card

A hundred years ago and more, people sent each other cards wishing good fortune and prosperity in the coming new year. Often these cards were postcards, and contained various elements meant to represent luck and wealth. Commonly used items include: four leafed clovers or shamrocks; bags of money; ladybugs; red-spotted mushrooms (Amanita muscaria); angels, fairies, or gnomes; pigs; and of course, champagne.

WM Ladybugs 1b

A New Year’s Day card originally published in Belgium, from which I have made a reproduction card

In the US we seem to have lost the habit of sending cards for New Year’s Day, but those in Europe continue to do so. My cousin C., who spent part of his childhood in France and who travels there as often as he can, has a whole group of friends to whom he sends cards for New Year’s.

The French, in particular are still fond of sending cards for New Year’s Day, and many of the vintage postcards I have in my collection are from France, although the Scandinavian countries come a close second behind the French in this regard.

WMNerman 1a

A dual-purpose card by Einar Nerman, of Sweden, circa the ’20s.

Often cards from Sweden or Denmark are combination Christmas and New Year’s Day cards. They are the ones most likely to have pigs in them, for some reason it seems a popular tradition.

The Victorian English had their New Year’s cards too, and they were often some of the oddest. Several bloggers have posted about them, and are well worth the reading and viewing. Margaret Buffie has a wonderful collection of them on her blog (mostly Christmas, but some dual holiday.) She and I have several of the same cards in our collections.

One of my personal favorites in the whimsical/odd categories is this one, with a group of owls wishing us the compliments of the season as they dance under a full moon, accompanied by a frog footman who is carrying a roast mouse for their holiday supper.

WMNew Year Owls 200

There really seems no end to the wonderful images that are found on vintage New Year’s cards, and I hope to expand my offerings of reproduction cards for that holiday soon. For those of you who still send cards for holidays, (or enjoy them as prints and other items), do stop by and check out my Etsy store, where I have hundreds of wonderful reproductions of vintage images available.