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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Pigs, Bugs and Magic Mushrooms

I was looking online to find strange or unusual Christmas customs and stumbled upon these very weird greeting cards.  I am guessing they range in date from around the late Victorian era and into the early 1900's.   I was surprised; in fact, a bit shocked at the utter weirdness that I discovered.

Pigs - and, more pigs, walking vegetables, macabre animals and bugs, mournful - downright ugly snowmen, magic? mushrooms, bugs, and bizarre sea creatures... and, yes, more.  All created for the purpose of extending Holiday greetings?  Apparently so.    

NOTE:  If you like this post, you may want to check out my blog post about Krampus, 2013.  

Here is an example of a monkey painting a dog with another little monkey watching or spying.  One must ask, how does this relate to "the Season"?

This one makes sense... he is suffering from a case of too much bubbly on New Year's Eve.  The umbrella is shading the light which most likely hurts his eyes, and his top-hat, coat and shiny black shoes are evident of his prior night's fancy attire. 

Have a look at this charming porker pair that someone painted to wish you a Merry Christmas.  In fact, when you continue to scroll down this page, you will notice a lot of pigs extending similar greetings.  

Why a pig?  

Apparently the tradition of using pigs for Seasonal salutations originated in Germany, most likely Teutonic.  The words  “Schwein gehabt”, literally means “got pig!”, though has been translated to mean “got lucky there!”   

The swine as a good luck symbol was also used in England, Austria and Ireland. During Medieval times, if one possessed a pig, they were considered fortunate and probably wealthy.  I assume that the Victorians simply carried on with this custom.  Hence, the use of pigs for this reason isn't as far-fetched as I had thought. 

This card reads:  "We come to wish you all a bright New Year".   I can't find the symbolism relating to New Year - Halloween, yes... New Year....no.  Shrug.

Like a Bat out of Hell? 
Blind as a bat? 
Batting an eyelash? 
Batting 500? 
Right off the bat? 
Bat one for the team?  

"The Result - A happy New Year"  - - I'm guessing this guy is still suffering the effects of drinking Absinthe and the Green Fairies have turned into red devils, and other hallucinations.

"A Joyous New Year" - Bah, Hum-Bug!

"Looking into things afar off - A HAPPY NEW YEAR"   ....I'll bug off on this one. 

Above are a few examples of Amanita muscaria mushrooms being used as New Year's Greetings.  These pretty, conspicuous red and white toadstools are also known as "Fly Agaric" or "Magic Mushrooms" - you may simply know them being called "shrooms".  

The psychoactive Amanita Muscaria has been commonly found through-out Europe and Russia.  One website explained their use in Syberia [Russia] as an antiquated practice of Shamans.  These "wise men" and women would distribute mushrooms among their people for celebratory use (or even medicinal use), as the effects from consumption are similar to a moderate amount of alcohol.  Perhaps these mushrooms were used as recreational or healing to ward off Seasonal depression, as the winters in that region are famous for their longevity.

"A Merry Christmas to You" - Can you "beet" this?

"A Loving Christmas Greeting" - You may not believe this, but this rather morbid greeting card actually has a profound social statement.  The dead bird was used symbolically as a reminder of the homeless or very poor children, who may have frozen to death during the holiday season.  These cards were used to elicit an awareness or a reminder of the reality of the effects of severe poverty or homelessness.

This frightening snowman (who apparently can walk) is offering holly to a little robin.  Though holly is toxic to humans, it is an important food source to birds.  

"Fair Girl be warned when Christmas comes, Reject that pudding stuffed with plums" - Victorian Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig? 

By today's standards, this is an example of abuse, however, during this era, children were threatened with the results of being naughty and not nice.  Apparently, St. Nick or Santa's helper - the Devil, himself - would warn children that they would be punished for bad behavior. 

"A Happy Christmas to you" - The appearance of the man in the guillotine seems to have a bit of a weight problem.  He is being tempted by the Christmas pudding, and being ridiculed by a child in a jester's costume.  Next to to the plum pudding appears to be a stein of beer. 

Christmas pudding was traditionally served during dinner in Britain and other Celtic countries.  It was originated during Medieval times and more frequently known as "plum pudding".  (I am reminded of Tiny Tim in the book, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.)  

Traditional plum pudding actually does not contain plums, but raisins.  It was/is generally made with dried fruits, egg, suet, molasses and spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves are/were added.  Sugar and dark beer (stout or porter) is/was added as part of the batter. It is/was then aged for about a month, and then steamed for a long period of time, prior to the Christmas feast.  At serving time, it is then dressed with brandy and set afire.

Another story about  plum pudding's association with Christmas, again goes back to Medieval England, that *"goes back to a custom in Medieval England that the "pudding should be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity, that it be prepared with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles, and that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honor the Magi and their supposed journey in that direction".

"With the Compliments of the Season" - A dead rat or mouse is being cooked whilst hanging from a branch being supported by plant stalks, while tiny people in cat costumes gather round the fire. What could say "Christmas" better?

"A Happy Christmas To You" - A dog with a gun.  

Equally frightening, a crazed polar bear hugging a man wearing ice skates, and the card wishes you "A Hearty Welcome".

"With the Compliments of the Season" - I wouldn't advise hitting a police officer with a snowball.

A reminder to give to the poor during the holiday season.

A frog with bugs dancing on the beach - I ask you:  How could this be more symbolic of Christmas?

Did this frog just murder another frog for money, and then wish him a Merry Christmas?

This is definitely before the invention of the fire extinguisher....

"Glad Christmas bade me happy make your ???? And so I thought I'd give you something ???"  In my mind, all I can see is the clown in American Horror Story Freak Show.

Thankfully, this concludes my look at the strange custom of sending weird holiday greeting cards.  

Wishing you Happy Holidays!  

*Source - wikipedia, plum pudding

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