Here’s a short and sweet post for Christmas. We all know that many of the Christmas traditions we keep today, such as the Christmas tree, pulling crackers and sending Christmas cards, originated in the Victorian era. But did you also know that even back in the 19th century, newspapers and magazines were stuffed full with unoriginal, hackneyed articles at this time of year?

Paper lace card, 1860s. Copyright Michelle Higgs

In January 1884, Punch alluded to this in a piece entitled Unhackneyed Yule; Or, Yule-tide Gush. The writer devised a ‘New Game for Journalists’ to produce ‘a novel and really readable column of printed matter for next Christmas’. The rules were:

“1. No allusions whatever to be made to DICKENS’s Christmas Chimes, to WASHINGTON IRVING’s Old Christmas, or to the Grave-digger who punched the little boy’s head for whistling on Christmas Day.
2. Anybody who uses the words ‘Yule-tide’ or ‘Yule-log’ is immediately out of the game.
3. No references permitted to the Druids, or the Roman Saturnalia.
4. No paragraphs to begin with “A Merry Christmas! And why not a Merry Christmas? Is it not far better to be merry than to be &c. &c.?” or with “To-day the bells from many a tower and steeple ring in the season of Good-will, of Merriment, of, &c. &c.”
5. Nobody to mention plum-pudding. Turkeys only to be used with a good deal of fresh stuffing.
6. Any words expressive of the slightest tolerance for “Waits” subject the Player to a heavy forfeit.
7. Players to take for granted that the public is already acquainted with the uses of Holly and Mistletoe as decorative agents, and these, therefore, are not to be mentioned at all.
8. No Scandinavian ‘lore’ about Mistletoe to be trotted out on any pretence.
9. Feelings of gushing benevolence to the poor (on paper) to be sternly repressed.
10. Articles to be as short as possible.
11. If possible, no articles at all to be written.”

This is my last blog of the year so Yuletide greetings to one and all – oops, I’m out of the game! Happy Christmas everyone!

Pug dogs card, 1880s. Copyright Michelle Higgs

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