I’m making a massive effort to get onto my 2021 resolutions early with a determination to get Ladybird Tuesday back on track. I’ve said that several times over the last few years, but life has that annoying habit of getting in the way. With a toddler who now occasionally lets me get my laptop out and doesn’t try to sit on it when I do, I’m a tad more hopeful that I was on previous attempts.
With today being the 1st of December I’m also determined to dig out some festive titles from my Ladybird collection. These might not be the oldest books in my collection, but they’re certainly appropriate for this time of year.
I’m starting off with Christmas Customs, a title that was published in 1988 as part of Series 8818. This isn’t a series that I’m very familiar with, as it’s a little later than most of my collection, but a bit of research suggests that there were a total of six titles in the series. Looking at Nicole’s amazing master list of Ladybird books (here is you’re not familiar with it) it lists the following as being published between 1988 and 1991:
- Christmas Customs
- Christmas Songs
- The Christmas Mouse
- The Christmas Story
- Toad’s Christmas Party
- Well Loved Carols
Only three of these titles are listed on the series list on the back of my book – Christmas Customs, Christmas Songs and Well Loved Carols – and that seems to fit with those three being the first titles published in the series.
What is lovely about Christmas Customs is that the book actually goes somewhat further than the title suggests. As well as covering the Christmas Story and the Christian customs that many of us are familiar with, the book also looks back at the Saturnalia which was celebrated by the Romans who honoured Saturn. They were the first to decorate their homes with evergreens (to remind Saturn to send crops and plants for food the following spring) and this tradition continued to celebrate the birthday of Jesus. The book looks at why holly, ivy and mistletoe were chosen to be used to do this.
The influence of the Victorians
Christmas Trees came over to England from Germany with Prince Albert in 1846, and whilst I knew that I have to admit that I wasn’t totally familiar with the original story of Martin Luther’s tree.
The Christmas Tree wasn’t the only Christmas Custom that was introduced in Victorian times. It was also when the first Christmas cards were sent, and the first Christmas Crackers pulled.
This morning my children opened the first door on their advent calendar, and I suppose it’s a bit disappointing that the book talks about these, but now where they came from. A quick search online suggests they were first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Christmas around the world
Christmas Customs can vary from country to country and as well as introducing us to Santa Claus the book also talks about St Nicholas (or Sinterklaas as he is known in The Netherlands), Christkindl (Germany’s Christ Child) and Befana who delivers gifts to Italian children on 6 January each year.
For many people food traditions are an important part of their Christmas celebrations. But why do we eat mince pies, turkey and Christmas puddings? It’s worth reading to find out.
What’s in a name?
Many children wonder why Boxing Day is called what it is. Some think of people donning boxing gloves for the day, whilst others think about all the boxes that their gifts came in the day before. The real reason for the name comes from medieval times, when alms boxes were placed at the back door of every church to collect money for the poor. These boxes were always opened on 26th December and so that is why the day became known as Boxing Day.
I’ve actually learnt quite a few new facts from reading this book. I wasn’t aware before that the word pantomime means “all mime” and that the first pantomimes were acted out entirely through dancing and mime. They’ve become such a huge Christmas tradition that I know many of us will miss this year in particular.
It can be so easy to be caught up in the commercialism of Christmas, but even if you’re not religious yourself, it’s lovely to try to understand some of the Christmas customs, why we do them and when they originated. Christmas Customs is actually a perfect way to start filling in some of the gaps in my knowledge.
About Ladybird Tuesday
Ladybird Tuesday is a regular feature here on Penny Reads, where I delve into my Ladybird book collection and choose a title to share with my readers. The weekly series originally started on my old blog, Being Mrs C, and this post originally appeared on there. I’m now in the process of moving all those posts over to Penny Reads and also adding titles that I have acquired since then. A list is currently being compiled here of all the titles I have in my collection.