Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Arty Alphabet Days 10-16

Another week of Arty Alphabet ( Instagram challenge #everydaycreativeatoz) ..... 
J : Jolly Jesters - little handmade dolls from an elinorpeace bailey pattern.  
K: Kangaroo -  Australian applique on a background of paper and fabric with an overlay of organza and stitching
L: Lino cut print -  only my second attempt at lino block printing  
M: Mask - blackwork embroidered mask 
N: Needle cases - I own quite a few, some made by me - the beautiful beaded one was made for me by my daughter-in-law. 
O: Origami - It took me a long while to learn to do this, but finally got there, with tuition from my mother. 
P: Penguin soft toys - Just finished last week for a challenge at Gumnut Dollies Newcastle. We were challenged to create something with a Christmas theme from a free downloadable internet pattern.  The pattern comes from PurlSoho. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Firsts #11: Penguins

This year, I fell into the sentimental trap of making some penguin softies for Christmas .... and I am not the only one - penguins seem to be everywhere at the moment dressed in Christmassy costumes, with trees, bells, and all kinds of Christmas paraphernalia.   Should penguins really  be associated with Christmas?   Probably not  and not as Santa's helpers as they often depicted. Penguins inhabit the Antarctic region in the South Pole, while Santa Claus it has been established has his home in the North Pole. The theory is that somehow penguins are associated with snow, then Winter, then Christmas, but what about us in the southern hemisphere. Perhaps they are just cute? 
Whatever the reason, when were penguins first seen as part of the Christmas scene

While there is no verifiable answer, it would seem that Monty the Penguin in the John Lewis Christmas advertisement in 2014  popularised  the trend. (If you are not familiar with the  Christmas  advertisements  of John Lewis, a British department store chain, they are always abound with goodwill, love and peace  and celebrate the joy of giving. )  Monty the Penguin was 'given the Christmas he was wishing for"... 

I really don't think Monty can take the credit for being the FIRST penguin to be associated with the festive season. Think about the penguins of Madagascar in a Christmas Caper in 2005.

And in  South Korea, Japan, Britain and USA ,  penguins have been dressing up for Christmas at least since 2010 for aquarium and zoo displays. There may well be many other countries which have similar festive displays, but the Japanese penguins have had the most publicity for the daily walks in costume,  leading up to Christmas.   

While Monty the Penguin in 2014 certainly consolidated penguins' popularity as part of  the Christmas magic..  Even if penguins other than Monty  might have a claim to being the first Christmas penguin,  it would seem that penguins defy all logic and remain sentimental favourites amongst the Christmas menagerie.

Sources : http://www.newsweek.com/photos-penguins-dress-santa-holidays-407888

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas Firsts #9 and #10 : Santa Impersonator

Today, two Christmas firsts in one hit!  
Warning: You may not want your children or grandchildren to read this post - it may shatter Christmas beliefs.... 
The firsts featured today are the FIRST store Santa Claus or if you want to be really brutal, the first Santa Impersonator and the first store to employ a Santa impersonator . Logically, this would be the one and the same story, but this, like many other claims to Christmas firsts, is contentious.
The first “Santa” - Many sources, verify that James Edgar, in Brockton, Massachusetts, commonly known as “Colonel Jim was  the first department store Santa Claus in 1890 . Edgar, the store owner, had a Santa costume tailored especially for him ( he was certainly the right build for a Santa figure) and a few weeks before Christmas 1890 he made his first appearance. Many years later a man who’d been a boy that day reminisced: “My parents had taken me over to the Boston store [Edgar’s] on Main Street. I remember walking down an aisle, and all of a sudden, right in front of me, I saw Santa Claus. I couldn’t believe my eyes. And then Santa came up and started talking to me. It was a dream come true.” By 1891 Santa had appeared at many major department stores, and by the turn of the century the department store Santa was an institution.

However, Macy’s the famous American department store linked to the classic film, “Miracle of 34th Street” traces its history of having a store Santa back to 1862.  This claim has been dismissed by some, calling Macy’s Santa as a “cookie cutter’ Santa, just a person dressed up enticing people to enter the store - quite different from Edgar’s Santa who interacted with children and gave out gifts. 
There are stories of Edgar’s generosity at Christmas - standing on the top of the roof of his store, throwing coins to crowds below and having 5,000 pairs of children’s shoes mended for free. An editor of “New England Today” as a footnote to the article about James Edgard wrote: “While retail giant Macy’s also claims to be the home of the first department store Santa, the distinction appears to lie in the manner of dress. James Edgar portrayed the fat, jolly version as popularized by artist Thomas Nast for the cover of Harper’s Weekly in 1862.” 
So, shall we give the title of FIRST shop Santa to James Edgar? But wait… is it just a matter of terminology?

J.W. Parkinson , in 1841, employed a person to impersonate Kris Kringle to climb down  the chimney of his shop - a confectionery in Philadelphia  From The "Philadelphia North American" of December 25, 1841 ( Remember, Christmas wasn’t a holiday in USA then. )
 "Cris cringle … Much as our young readers have heard and imagined of this worthy character as the bountiful patron of good children on Christmas Eve, they probably never expected to behold the real personage in the very act of descending a chimney, as our friend Parkinson has shown him over his well thronged shop door in Chestnut Street. He was decidedly the attraction yesterday and last evening, and monopolized more than his share of the attention of the young folks, which is usually bestowed with undivided admiration on the bon bons in the windows". So is Parkinson the first? 
Parkinson’s Confetionery and Restaruant , wood engraving, 1853:http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002725450/
Then of course, I should mention that Santa Claus did appear in a Christmas tableau entitled  ‘Christmas Fairyland’ , in Lewis’s Bon Marche Department Store in  Liverpool, England in 1879 - a first  of the Christmas Grotto displays in stores . ( In Australia, this tradition was established by John Martin’s  Christmas Magic Cave in Adelaide in 1896 ) Phew, that's enough... I have given up trying to work out who was the first. I am sure like most families, our family has its own favourite Santa impersonator. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Christmas Firsts #8 : Turkey

If your family is like ours, we love to have turkey at Christmas.  I have often wondered whether the tradition of Christmas turkey has its origins in England or in the USA. Turkey was already popular in the American colonies but Henry VIII  (1491 - 1547) was the first English king to enjoy turkey and was the first recorded king to have turkey on the Christmas menu in 1526.  However, eating turkey at Christmas didn't really become  fashionable  until the reign of   Edward VII ( 1841-1910). 
Mrs Beeton, in her 1861 Book of Household Management indicated that turkey was not popular as “a Christmas dinner with the middle classes” until the 19th century. At first, in medieval England, a main course of boar was the most popular. Through the 16th and 17th centuries goose or capon was commonly served, and the rich sometimes dined upon peacock and swan.
Turkeys, while becoming more available, remained a luxury until 1950’s. Working class families were not able to afford turkey even for Christmas.  ( Do you remember a famous Christmas dinner scene  at the end in DickensA Christmas Carol (1843), where Scrooge sends Bob Cratchitt a large turkey as an especially generous gift.)
I can’t remember when we first started to include turkey for our Christmas dinner in Australia. I don't recall turkey for Christmas when I was a child,  but for all of my married life,(46 years) we have owned and served on two large turkey platters. I am only assuming that turkey at Christmas must have been popular in Australia from about or before the 1960’s as  one of our platters,  a Johnson Brothers  is from that decade. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Christmas Firsts #7 - Movies

What is your favourite Christmas movie? Perhaps one of the old classics of the 1940’s like “Miracle on 34th Street” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” or even more modern 1990’s classics from The Muppets Christmas repertoire?

Long before, there was Santa Claus, the first Christmas movie Santa Claus was the creation George Albert Smith, a British pioneer  film maker. Produced in 1898, this short film was one of the first on any theme, not only Christmas. Because of its clever editing techniques it has been hailed a technical marvel of its age. 

"What makes this treatment considerably more interesting than a conventional piece of editing is the way that Smith links the shots in terms of both space and time, by placing the new image over the space previously occupied by the fireplace, and continuing to show the children sleeping throughout (their bed occupies the left-hand side of the screen throughout the entire film). Santa then emerges from where the fireplace used to be, distributes the presents, and disappears via another jump cut.

This is believed to be the cinema's earliest known example of parallel action and, when coupled with double-exposure techniques…, the result is one of the most visually and conceptually sophisticated British films made up to then.
( from neatorama.com )

While this short silent film may not appeal today when we are so used to technological advances in filming and so many amazing special effects, I think there is such authenticity to this little film - just like a home movie of the past!

Obviously Christmas is a theme many film makers, amateur and professional explore. Some of these suggest that Christmas might be just an excuse to make a bad movie. You can tell just by the title that the reviews aren’t going to be  five stars, for example, Santa’s Slay, Santa Claus Conquers the Marians, Revenge of the Mutant Snowman, and the series of horror movies, Silent Night Deadly Night. If you are interested, I found this list of ‘every Christmas movie ever made - will almost.’ And I am sure you will find your favourite Christmas movie there. 

OK, I am admitting I favour the schmaltzy, happy ending Christmas movies. When I was young (an impressionable 13 year old ? ), my favourite feel good movie was ‘Lilies of the Field’ and I still love it, so of course, on my long list of Christmas movies I enjoy,  the sequel, “Christmas Lilies of the Field” very narrowly goes to the top above other sentimental favourites like “The Bells of St Mary’s”, “Holiday Inn” and “Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence”.

Now here’s a great Advent/ Christmas activity, make a list of your favourite Christmas movies and relax and and watch at least y
our top ten this festive season!