With just a few days to go, we’re starting to get that Christmas feeling at Hull University Archives! So we’ve been looking through the collections for references to Christmases past. These are some of the things we found…
Send a card
To get us started, here’s a Christmas card printed by our University for the year 1946. The ‘Donald’ who sent this card was a former student, so we can presume that these cards were available for purchase in much the same way Uni branded merchandise is sold by the Student Union today.
Receive a card
A much more visually interesting Christmas card from 1868 next. This one was sent to William Mortimer Baines by his son Henry Verdon Baines.
Order the turkey (or nut roast!)
A slightly left of field offering here, perhaps relating to Christmas dinner…. This is a draft agreement stating the terms under which Henry Southerne was able to rent a house and land in Everingham from John Rushworth. As well as paying a monetary rent, Southerne was responsible for providing Rushworth with a ‘fat hen’ every Christmas. Not something your modern student landlord asks for!
Deck the halls
Whilst we are on the subject of land ownership, this letter is an extremely contrite apology sent by Lady Constance Lawley of The Villa, Escrick, to Mrs Baines of Bell Hall on Boxing Day. It appears Lady Lawley trespassed on the Baines’ land in order to collect ivy to decorate her house for Christmas, scaring their game in the process.
Attend a service
Order of service for Christmas services held at the Church of the Holy Sacrament, Arras, on the Western Front in 1917
Write thank you notes
After the presents come the thank you notes. This one is from a daughter to her mother thanking her for the gift of a writing pad and fountain pen. The daughter would grow up to become a successful author.
And finally, a mix of Christmas cheer and bah-humbug in this memorandum from former University of Hull librarian Philip Larkin:
On behalf of the University Archives team, we hope you have a restful Christmas break and we’ll see you in the New Year!
Understanding how the digital world has changed society over time is something that I think more people should know about. As this will be the last post before Christmas, I thought it would be interesting to see how digital advancements have changed our lives, not just at Christmas but every day. This is where I get to let my former history student out and look into the past to see how the digital world has changed and developed.
Where it all began
Despite what you might think Christmas was not celebrated widely even as recently as the 19th century. It was only near the end of the century when it became an annual celebration that started to spread across the whole world. In England, this change can be attributed to Queen Victoria, who married the German, Prince Albert in 1840. Prince Albert introduced some of the most prominent aspects of Christmas along with his influence in embracing emerging technologies. These influences then pushed England into the first Industrial Revolution.
1840 marked the end of the mechanical age, which began in about 1450. It was also the beginning of the electromechanical era, which continued until 1940. Many new technologies emerged during the mechanical and electromechanical eras. For example, Telecommunications, which became important for sending handmade postal cards for Christmas, started in the electromechanical era.
Christmas past, present and future
Since then, transformation, adaptation, and the influence of important technological advancements have reshaped not just Christmas but our whole world. I thought it would be fun to view this like the ghosts of past future and present from Charles Dickens’s timeless tale, A Christmas Carol, quite appropriately published in the 19th century in 1843. Now we have just looked at the past and how it all began, so let’s now move into the present.
How has Christmas changed?
Handmade Christmas cards used to be quite a common practice but have now been replaced by commercial cards, and by e-Cards when the Internet became a key aspect of society. Another evolution is also how people send Holiday Greetings via video. With video becoming widely used and accessible with the advent of smartphones.
In-store shopping replaced homemade gifts with all sorts of things one can buy. The Internet has made possible what many consider a shopping dream with online shopping and next-day home delivery. Christmas shopping is a few clicks away. There is even an option for sending a Christmas gift card by email, for those late shoppers who ran out of time. You can also play some Christmas songs on Spotify, have some hot chocolate, and online Christmas shopping has most of the traditional elements without the crowds.
Technological gadgets are the most wanted Christmas presents expected by both adults and children. There are rarely handmade gifts, like in the past. Mobile communications made it easy to send text messages and WhatsApp friends and family around the world. Video calls make it possible for family members to join from anywhere in the world.
Twitter and Facebook have also influenced Christmas making it even easier to send a single greeting with a photo of the family tree nicely decorated to hundreds of people simultaneously. With just one click a Christmas greeting can reach thousands of people.
Though some may complain about how technology has changed us as a society there is no denying the benefits. Postal delays are less of a problem as many receive digital greetings in perfect time, paper-free. Technology has made it possible to bring families and friends together in times when travelling was not an option. Video calling and chats allow families to virtually be together at the Christmas dinner table when members of the family live scattered around the world.
How we can use these developments now and in the future?
Technology has also allowed us to be more creative in different ways. We can still create our own cards but in an easier and more efficient way and we have better ways to plan what is quite a hectic time of year. Below you can see how you can easily use digital software to create a Christmas card. In addition to this, there are also digital planners you can use which can help you plan out your Christmas.
You will notice all these developments also have a usage outside of Christmas, shopping, communication and creation amongst many over things has never been easier. We can plan ahead and organise our day which is helpful for a student or in the workplace and digital creation can be used for projects and presentations. We can also easily talk to family and with fellow students or work colleagues. Also, the internet whilst being useful for shopping has created so many benefits when it comes to studying and working. Almost every day of your life as a student and when you go into the workplace involves some use of the internet.
This is a very exciting age to be living in and it will be interesting to see what developments come next.