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Culture Heritage Learning

Fashionably Edinburgh: 11 bold looks through the ages

5th March 2019 by Scran | 0 comments

We recently visited our pals at Edinburgh Central Library to showcase imagery capturing the changing fashions in Edinburgh and the Lothians. Here are some of our favourites:

1565

1. Lord Darnley and Mary Queen of Scots, 1565 with the lavishly decorated clothes you would expect from royalty at this time. Mary is looking distinctly uncomfortable in her expensive lace ruff and cuffs. She would have been wearing a hooped skirt and fitted bodice.

 

 

 

 

 

1760

2. A formal mantua from around 1760. It was probably worn by Mary Holt, wife of the 7th Earl of Haddington and may have been worn at the wedding of King George III to Queen Charlotte in 1761. The dress was made of blue and white French silk and the hoop would have been made of whalebone or supple wood.

 

 

 

1892

3. Sisters Janet and Christian Steuart pose for a photograph in their ball dresses at their grandfather’s summer residence in Mount Esk, Lasswade, Midlothian, in 1892.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1909

4. A page from a 1909 issue of Strathtay House Fashion Magazine, showcasing Adam Smail’s outfitting business

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1923

5. Grace Murray and William James Slee, a railway engine driver, on their wedding day in Edinburgh, 1923.Note the stiff winged collar shirt, which is very formal by this date, and the cloth gaiter spats above William’s boots, which by this date are old-fashioned. Grace’s dress is straight, as it was not fashionable to emphasise curves at this time.

 

 

 

 

1954

6. Queue sale at Patrick Thomson’s, Edinburgh, 1954.

 

 

 

 

 

1959

7. Hat Show at Greensmith Downes, Edinburgh, 1959. ThisPrimrose’ hat was designed by Christian Dior.

 

 

 

 

 

1959

8. An Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society (SCWS) mannequin parade in Links Place in 1959. The model wears a suit made popular by The Beatles.

 

 

 

 

1969

9. A line up of the competitors at the Capital Queen bathing contest at Portobello swimming pool, Edinburgh, 1969. Note the emergence of the bikini!

 

 

 

 

 

1973

10. Customers (or staff) outside an unidentified clothes shop selling a lot of denim – Cockburn Street Edinburgh in June 1973. Bellbottom heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

1983

11. Punks and a Cyberman walking up Lothian Road to publicise the 20th anniversary Dr Who exhibition at the Filmhouse cinema in Edinburgh, December 1983.

 

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We have lots more fantastic fashion photos on Scran – take a look at our fashion Pathfinders to browse themed collections.

Images © The Scotsman, National Museums Scotland, Dundee Libraries & Hulton Getty| Licensor Scran

 

Mary Queen of Scots “From Castle to Palace”

18th February 2019 by Scran | 0 comments

City of Edinburgh, Canongate on the Roy Map, 1747-55

Mary Queen of Scots (1542-87)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This guest post comes from Sally Chalmers, the HES Learning Officer at Edinburgh Castle who has used Scran records to tell the story “From Castle to Palace”.

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Mary, Queen of Scots, finally returned home to Scotland in August 1561. After years of living in France she was used to elaborate celebrations, so the arrival back to a haar and the bustle of Leith docks may have been disappointing. Her unusually fast crossing resulted in a lacklustre welcome.  A few weeks later however, Mary was ready to make her real entrance to Scotland. In September 1561, she led a magnificent procession down the Royal Mile, beginning at Edinburgh Castle she proceeded to her residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Castell of Edenborrowgh 1649 – features gallows where witches were executed

Today, school visitors to Edinburgh Castle can walk in Mary’s footsteps using a trail developed by HES in partnership with Royal Collections Trust. The trail follows the length of the Royal Mile highlighting sites and landmarks which would have been there in 1561.

We are invited to cast our minds back and imagine walking the route by Mary’s side as she took in her old home and her new country.

 

 

Erected in 1912 following a suggestion by Patrick Geddes

Witches Well at the Royal Mile end of the Esplanade marks the site where over 300 witches and warlocks, mostly women, were victims of burnings from 1479 to 1722. Though it wasn’t there in Mary’s time, her son James took particular interest in witches, even questioning suspects of witchcraft himself during the infamous North Berwick witch trials.

The plaque inscription reads “This fountain, designed by John Duncan, RSA is near the site on which many witches were burned at the stake. The wicked head and the serene head signify that some used their exceptional knowledge for evil purposes, while others were misunderstood and wished their kind nothing but good. The serpent has the dual significance of evil and wisdom. The foxglove spray further emphasise the dual purpose of common objects.”

 

Gladstone’s Land on the Lawnmarket C19th engraving

Gladstone’s Land  now cared for by the National Trust, in Mary’s time this building would have belonged to a wealthy merchant. The merchant and other wealthy tenants would have lived in grand apartments on the upper floors, while the lower floors would be used as a shop and to house smellier residents, pigs! Today, you can still visit a shop but there are no longer any pigs.

 

 

 

 

 

Riddle’s Court

Riddle’s Court was built in the 1590s by merchant, Bailie John McMorran, reputedly the richest merchant of his time. It sits just off the main street away from the noise and smells of the crowded tenements of the Royal Mile. Aristocratic people would rent rooms here and use it as a meeting space. Mary’s son, James VI, attended a lavish banquet here.

It is named after George Riddell, who rebuilt it in 1726.

 

 

 

 

St Giles & the Old Tollbooth

Outside St.Giles’ Cathedral you can find a heart shape on the cobbles. In Mary’s time this was the site of the tollbooth – a court & prison. The heart marks the spot of the cell where prisoners would await execution.

Walking around the right side of the cathedral to the car park you’ll see a plaque in parking spot 23. This marks the grave of John Knox, a famous Scottish minister and one of Mary’s most vocal opponents.

 

The Mercat Cross is associated with state proclamations inc. Darnley 1565

The Mercat Cross showed that Edinburgh had the right to hold a regular market. It was also a site of public executions and formal proclamations (like the announcement of a new Queen). In Mary’s time, the Cross stood a little further down the street. You may be able to spot the cobbles that mark its previous position.

 

 

 

 

 

Luckenbooths were timber fronted, 4 storeyed tenements

Site of the Luckenbooths In Mary’s time, tall tenement buildings stood beside St Giles. They were known as luckenbooths because on the ground level they had locked booths which housed shops. Imagine what sights and smells Mary must have experienced as she travelled past the bustling Luckenbooths.

 

 

Etching of John Knox House & Mowbray House by Frank W Simon c1885

John Knox House is now home to the Scottish Storytelling Centre, the building known as John Knox’s house is one of the oldest houses in Edinburgh. It is believed that John Knox did live there for a while but it was also home to James Mossman, Mary’s goldsmith and keeper of the royal mint. Mary, Knox and Mossman feature on the wooden panels on the front of the house.

 

 

 

 

World’s End Close photographed early 1960s

The World’s End Walking along the mile you may spot a pub called the World’s End. This area was known as World’s End as it separated the Canongate (the lower Royal Mile) from the original city of Edinburgh. In Mary’s time, there would have been a gatehouse here. Sometime the gate here was used to display the heads of executed prisoners, perhaps there were some on display when Mary passed by, not knowing they foreshadowed her own eventual fate…

 

Originally three burgage tenements converted into one house in 1517

Today Huntly House is home the Museum of Edinburgh, it is typical of the type of housing in Mary’s time. It would have originally been made of wood but had to be rebuilt after being damaged during the Rough Wooing.

 

 

 

Murder of David Rizzio painting by Sir William Allan c.1833

Canongate Kirk & David Rizzio’s Grave  To the right of Canongate Kirk, you will find the plaque said to mark David Rizzio’s grave. Rizzio had been secretary to Mary and close confidant but he was brutally murdered in front of Mary, by a band of nobles including Mary’s own husband in 1566.

 

White Horse Close lies to the bottom of the Canongate

White Horse Close was the site of the royal mews or stable, where Mary kept her prized white horse, hence its name. Mary loved sports like riding and hunting, so her horses were important to her. The close became rather decayed and it was restored as modern housing in the 1960s.

 

 

 

 

Engraving by James Gordon 1649

Finally, we arrive at Mary’s destination The Royal Palace of holy rood hous.

This view shows Holyrood as it would have appeared at the time of Mary, Queen of Scots and before the fire during Cromwell’s occupation in 1650 when much of the building was destroyed.

Here we conclude the Castle to Palace trail.

Images © The British Library, Historic Environment Scotland, National Museums Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland,  City of Edinburgh Libraries & Alan Daiches  | Licensor Scran

11th February 2019
by Scran
0 comments

Warhol & Paolozzi

The National Galleries of Scotland’s exhibition on the artists Andy Warhol & Eduardo Paolozzi opened recently, and is showing until 9th June 2019 at their Modern Two gallery on Belford Rd. Showcasing original paintings, sculptures and screenprints, the exhibitions highlights … Continue reading

Up Helly Aa

29th January 2019 by Scran | 0 comments

Up Helly Aa celebrations take place on the last Tuesday of January . They are one of the United Kingdom’s most spectacular winter festivals. The festival, centred in Lerwick on the Shetland Islands, takes a year to plan and spans two days.

Roots

The modern version of Up Helly Aa – meaning “end of holidays” – has its origins around 1815 when young men returned from the Napoleonic war where they had experienced the banging of drums, fires, and guns. Out of such excitement came a desire to create an event which would enliven the long dark winter months. Early activities, particularly tar-barrelling where lit barrels of tar were pulled along the narrow street towards rival gangs, gave way to a more organised festival and by the 1950s the modern Up Helly Aa had evolved.02090271 The Festival is based around both the legends of Norse mythology and the very real links between Shetland and Norway which go back more than 1000 years. In the old Norse calendar Up Helly Aa was the last day of the winter festival and was celebrated on the 24th day following Yule. Shetland’s Up Helly Aa is held on the last Tuesday in January and concludes with the burning of a replica Viking long boat.

Guizers & the Jarl

02102225Each year, a Guizer Jarl or leader is nominated and the whole community work for some considerable time building and naming a new galley. Costumes and 1000 torches are prepared and arrangements are made for a series of parties. The Guizer Jarl (Head Viking) will have nominated himself to the Up Helly Aa committee 15 years in advance. It is therefore a long wait to fulfil the role. Preparation includes the selection of a squad of around 50 men who will form the squad. Direct debits will be set up over 15 years to pay for each costly suit (around £1,000) and other event costs. Being part of the Jarl squad is an honour and men spend long hours preparing their costumes and rehearsing.

 

Blazing Long Ship

02498940On Up Helly Aa morning the Jarl Squad meets, accompanied by the local brass band. All march to the Lerwick Legion where they receive their first dram of the day. Waiting outside are crowds of school children, locals and tourists – and, of course, the new galley, especially named for the day. The Guizer Jarl – wearing traditional Viking apparel – hoists his axe aloft aboard his long ship and calls on his Jarl Squad to begin the Festival. The Squad then processes through the town centre led by the Jarl. They carry banners and weapons as though on a raid.

The Proclamation

At this stage they deliver their “Proclamation” to the town – a light hearted document – which is displayed at the Market Cross in the town centre. Many folk stop to read and have a laugh as they read it. The proclamation (or bill) is erected as a large billboard which has been skilfully painted by local artists. The text includes local political topics and personal jokes. The Jarl squad spend the rest of the day visiting schools, hospitals, houses and the local museum.

The Last Rites

At 7.30pm, the leaders use crimson flares, or maroons, to signal the lighting of the torches and the start of the procession. Torches are wooden stakes, the size of fence posts, dipped in a combustable resin. They resemble giant matches. Lit by torchlight, the procession makes its way along King Erik Street and the Galley makes her last journey to the special burning site. Guizers, the Jarl’s men, wear specially made costumes inspired by mythological creatures such as serpents, double-headed eagles, and dragons. At the “Last Rites”, the procession reaches the burning site. The Galley is positioned as a centrepiece and the glowing torches are thrown into the boat. The flames engulf the galley reminiscent of a Viking leader’s burial. Only then are the feasting halls opened to receive squads. Those not involved in the procession have prepared food and set up parties. As dictated by tradition, the squad tour as many halls as they can. And the festivities last till morning.

For more pictures of Up Helly Aa including some stunning Hulton Getty photographs visit Scran.

Images © The Scotsman Publications Ltd., National Museums Scotland, Newsquest (Herald & Times), Scottish Media Group | Licensor Scran 

Burns Supper

16th January 2019 by Scran | 0 comments

Around January 25th, Burns’ Clubs & other lovers of the poet, arrange Burns Suppers. Burns has always attracted massive support.

01980093This painting, by an unknown artist, depicts the 1844 Burns Festival. The procession, which started in Ayr, is shown passing over the new and old brigs o’ Doon and entering the festival site at the Burns Monument, where Burns’ three surviving sons were guests of honour. The event attracted over 100,000 participants and involved the construction of a banqueting marquee for 1400 invited guests, seen to the right of the picture. A platform was constructed in front of the Monument to enable the guests of honour to be seen by the crowds and to deliver the speeches.

History

01740151

Newton Stewart Burns’ Club dinner, 1904

Greenock enthusiasts founded the earliest Burns’ Club on 21st July 1801 and had their first supper on 29th January 1802; which at that time was mistakenly thought to be the anniversary of his birth. Following close on their heels were clubs at Paisley, Kilmarnock and Dunfermline. Throughout the century more and more clubs sprang up either in Scotland or wherever Scots met. One of the earliest in England was the Bristol Caledonian Society founded in 1820. By 1885 there were so many Burns’ Clubs in existence that an international Federation of clubs was instituted.

Format of Burns’ Supper

Welcome & Grace 00981150 (1)

A few welcoming words start the evening & the meal commences with the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Piping in the Haggis – Before the Haggis appears, one should hear the skirl of the bagpipes and the company should stand to receive the haggis. A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table. The guests accompany this with a slow rhythmic hand clap.

06710548Address to the Haggis – The chairman or invited guest then recites Burns’ famous poem To A Haggis. When he reaches the line “an cut you up wi’ ready slight”, he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife. The company applauds the speaker and then are asked by their host to stand and toast the haggis with a glass of whisky. The meal is then served.

The Immortal Memory – An invited guest is asked to give a short speech on Burns. There are many different types of Immortal Memory speeches, from light-hearted to literary, but the aim is the same – to outline the greatness and relevance of the poet today.

Toast to the Lasses – The main speech is followed by a more light-hearted address to the women in the audience. Originally this was a thank you to the ladies for preparing the food and a time to toast the ‘lasses’ in Burns’ life. The tone should be witty, but never offensive, and should always end on a friendly note.

Response – The turn of the lasses to detail men’s foibles. Again, this should be humorous but not insulting.

Poems & Songs

Once the speeches are complete the evening continues with songs and poems. The evening will culminate with the company standing, linking hands and singing Auld Lang Syne to conclude the programme.

Food Served

06320052The food varies according to custom and locality but, in general, the meal should feature a Haggis. The usual accompaniment is Tatties [potatoes] and Neeps [turnips or swedes]. Other components might include a soup such as Scotch Broth or Cock-a- Leekie and there may be Atholl Brose or cheese and bannocks [oatcakes].

Images © Trustees of Burns Monument & Burns Cottage, National Museums Scotland, Whithorn Photographic Group  & Scottish Life Archive and an Unknown | Licensor Scran

New Year & Hogmanay

28th December 2018 by Scran | 0 comments


06712115The celebration of the New Year is one of the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago when the beginning of spring was the logical time to start a new year. The Babylonian new year celebration lasted for eleven days.

The Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the new year. But it wasn’t until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar that the months became synchronised with the seasons and the sun. The early Catholic Church condemned the festivities as paganism. But as Christianity became more widespread, the early church began aligning its own religious observances with many pagan celebrations. During the Middle Ages, the Church remained opposed to celebrating New Year. However, it remained an important festival linked with mid-winter.

Traditions

05015276Traditions of the season include the making of New Year’s resolutions which dates back to the early Babylonians. Using a baby to signify the new year was begun in Greece around 600 BC. They celebrated their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the god’s rebirth as the spirit of fertility. Luck in the New Year – traditionally, it was thought that one could affect luck throughout the coming year. For that reason, it become common to feast and make merry into the first moment of the new year – hence New Year’s Eve. This feast took place with family and friends.

Scotland & New Year

For many English speaking countries, Scotland has come to represent a focus for New Year with its own particular Hogmanay [New Year’s Eve] and New Year’s Day celebrations which weave pagan and winter themes together. In Scotland, for many years, the official winter holiday was New Year’s Day and not Christmas Day. Over the last fifty years, Christmas has become more equalised in regard. There is a particular vocabulary to a Scottish New Year:09053042

Whisky is seen as an important part of the festival where one sips a dram [a measure of whisky] and proposes toasts to the New Year – maintaining the association with wishing a lucky year.

First Footing is very important in Scotland. This is where the first person to set foot in your house, after the midnight bells chime, should bring luck. It is particularly lucky if that visitor happens to be a tall dark-haired man. First Footers have to be treated generously but also should show their own generosity. All-in-all, it’s a great excuse for a party into the wee sma’ hours [early hours of the next morning].

Gifts should be carried by the first footer. Traditionally, they are expected to carry at least aHawf or half bottle of whisky. You may be invited to “have a wee hawf” – to take a glass of whisky with the first footer. In fact, this is expected – and in return, the first footer will drink from your bottle. First Footers used also to carry a lump of coal with them and this would be thrown on the fire with the wish that lang may yer lum reek [long may your chimney smoke]! One should also carry something to eat and, traditionally Black Bun – a rich cake full of currants and perhaps alcohol – was provided.

Good Spirits & Fellow Feeling are expected. All those who meet after the bells are expected to wish each other a Guid New Year; and to shake hands and kiss if they know each other.

First Footing Rulesimgzoom-image-0749-07491417

  • The first footer brings all the luck, good or bad, for the year ahead.
  • They should be male, tall, dark and handsome.
  • They cannot be doctors, ministers or grave-diggers & cannot have eyebrows that meet in the middle!
  • They should come with drinks and food and should be merrily generous.
  • Such a first footer can claim a kiss from every woman. Woe betide the house that does not have such a First Footer – because they are heading for an unlucky year.

 

Auld Lang Syne

Many sing Auld Lang Syne at New Year – probably best sung at parting. At least partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700s, it was first published in 1796 after Burns’s death. It is old Scottish tune and literally means “old long since,” or simply, “the old times.” It mixes the perennial constants of Scotland at New Year – generosity, sentimentality and reminiscence with those you love and remember. Here are the most commonly sung verses:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,02070078
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

And there’s a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o thine,
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

A very Happy New Year to You from Scran

Images © The Scotsman, National Museums Scotland & Scottish Life Archive | Licensor Scran

The Christmas Card Phenomenon

23rd December 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

Festive Greetings06712558

Christmas greetings cards have become a regular feature of the traditional British Christmas with billions changing hands within the UK each year, but where did this tradition begin and why did it continue to thrive?

Humble Beginnings?

The first Christmas card is thought to have been designed by British artist John Calcott Horsley in 1840. With the invention of the telephone still over 30 years away, sending hand-written letters by mail was the primary means of communication. Faced with the tedious task of writing to all his friends and family members with Christmas greetings, a friend of Horsley, civil servant Henry Cole, conceived the idea of a printed card bearing a suitable message which could be signed and sent to one and all. Horsley embraced the idea and produced a design which was published in 1843. Cole had 1000 of the cards printed and placed on sale at the rather princely sum of 1 shilling each. Little did he realise just how popular his idea would become!

National Mania

09230757Times have changed since Henry Cole’s moment of inspired laziness: mail is no longer the mainstay of communication. The telephone network has joined up the remotest corners of the world and the cheap, paperless, instantaneous communication afforded by e-mail has threatened to make ‘snail mail’ altogether obsolete. The Christmas card, however, goes marching on, and in no small way.

We are still crazy enough about Christmas cards to cause enormous disruption to the postal system every December. This year, postboxes will be stuffed with an estimated 2 billion cards and on the busiest day the national mailbag will contain almost double its usual 84 million items. Such is the congestion that Royal Mail recommend posting second class seasonal dispatches 8 days in advance to guarantee arrival in time for the big day.

Conscientious Choice

06712561Two billion cards amounts to a lot of paper and a lot of spending. Many consumers are now looking for more conscientious ways to enjoy the tradition. Each year, around a quarter of shoppers will choose charity cards in the hope that good causes can benefit from their seasonal spending. However, the percentage of proceeds finding their way to good causes varies widely. Research by the Charities Advisory Trust suggests that some charity cards are just not all that charitable after all: the most miserly example they uncovered passed only 0.3% of proceeds to the named good cause. Others will aim for a more ethical celebration by boycotting Christmas cards altogether, feeling that their seasonal goodwill is better expressed by not contributing to the tonnes of paper waste generated from cards each year.

‘Tis the Season to Recycle?

  • 06710368An estimated 1 billion Christmas cards and 83 sq km of wrapping paper will end up in our bins this year
  • We bought around 7.5 million Christmas trees in 2001: at least 1.1 million were recycled
  • 20 – 30% more glass and cans will be collected for recycling over the festive period

Christianity back into Christmas?

Horsley’s original card had its opponents too, but for different reasons. It bore an image of a family raising their glasses to Christmas which incited fury amongst Puritans of the time. In what was still very much a Christian state the uproar was caused by the association of the evils of alcohol with the sanctity of the feast of Christmas. It is interesting to note that, while scenes of the Nativity and other connected imagery went on to become regular features in the design of Christmas cards, the genuine article was quite secular in its design.

Controversy about the presence or absence of Christianity in Christmas traditions rages in Britain to this day with many Christians bemoaning the seeming transformation of the feast from a religious event into an orgy of consumerism. Others would praise the fact that in our modern British society, one characterized by a far more diverse range of religion and cultural traditions than the Victorians would have recognised, the goodwill of Christmas is now often shared across faiths and cultures. The disagreement reaches beyond the UK too. In 2005 the president of the USA received angry feedback about the official White House Christmas card: the secular design of the card horrified some recipients (it featured two of the head of state’s pet dogs frolicking in the snow on the White House Lawn).

Question of Taste

The official White House card illustrates how the sending of Christmas cards has become protocol in the USA. The same is true in Britain: businesses are careful not forget their customers, and refuse collectors all over the country will receive cards from perfect strangers during the season. Is a Christmas card from the paperboy evidence of lasting Christmas spirit or just a hint that a tip might be in order?

A wide variety of designs have evolved to suit these myriad purposes. Horsley’s original design showed a scene of Christmas cheer. Cards like this are still popular, alongside Nativity scenes and informal cartoons. When the Christmas card was still a relatively new idea the Victorians became very fond of elaborately engineered pop-up and trick cards. Nowadays, hand-making cards is a popular hobby and parents everywhere are still best pleased with the lovingly prepared designs in glitter and glue brought home by their sticky-fingered schoolchildren.

What makes a good Christmas card? Can a piece of stationery really embody the Christmas spirit? Why not try making a Scran card to find out? Search for an image and click Create to make a greetings card in a few easy steps and see if you can make someone’s Christmas!

Images © Scottish Life Archive, The Scotsman Publications Ltd | Licensor Scran

Christmas Traditions

22nd December 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

09510019Christmas (originally meaning the Mass or Birth of Christ) is a holiday which celebrates the birth of Jesus in Christian belief. However, many Christmas traditions are based on other older pre-christian festivals. The Yule log, Christmas Tree, Mistletoe and Holly, for example, all derive from Scandinavian ceremonies associated with the Winter Solstice – December 21.

In mainly Christian countries, Christmas has become a major holiday of the year, but it is also celebrated as a secular holiday in countries with small Christian populations like Japan.

Christmas Today

08120374The modern Christmas, that we have come to know, is based on an exchange of gifts between family and friends; or on gifts being brought by Santa Claus. Local and regional Christmas traditions are still rich and varied. For example, in some countries in Europe, gifts are exchanged on December 6th or Epiphany – 6th January.

Coupled with celebration of the New Year, this whole mid-winter period has become a holiday set piece.

 

Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus of Nazareth is a central figure of Christianity. He is known as Jesus Christ with “Christ” being a title meaning “Anointed”. He is also considered a very important prophet in Islam.

The main sources regarding his life and teachings are four Gospels from the New Testament of the Bible, written some decades after his death. He is depicted as a Jewish Galilean preacher and healer who was at odds with the Jewish religious authorities, and who was crucified outside Jerusalem during the rule of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate. After his death numerous followers spread his teachings, and within a few decades Christianity emerged as a religion distinct from Judaism.

The Gospels State that:

  • Jesus was the Messiah – prophesied in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible)
  • He was the son of God
  • His birth by Mary was virginal
  • after His crucifixion He rose from the dead
  • He ascended into heaven

Many Christians believe that the accounts in the New Testament are historical facts, though others maintain that different parts have different degrees of accuracy.

Jesus is thought to have been born in a stable and was attended by Wise Men and Shepherds who brought gifts. In Christian thought, Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birth and the giving of gifts reflects that.

In Islam, Jesus (called Isa) is considered one of God’s most beloved and important prophets, a bringer of divine scripture, and also the messiah; although Muslims attach a different meaning to this term than Christians as they do not share the Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus.

Other religions also have different perspectives on Jesus, but do not place as much importance on his life and teachings.

Santa Claus (also known as Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santy or simply Santa) is a folk hero in various cultures. He distributes gifts to children, traditionally on Christmas Eve. Santa’s name is a variation of Saint Nicholas.

Father Christmas is a well-loved figure in the United Kingdom and similar in many ways to Santa Claus, though the two have quite different origins.

Boxing Day

In English-speaking countries, the day following Christmas Day is called ‘Boxing Day’. This word comes from the custom, started in the Middle Ages around 800 years ago, whereby churches would open their ‘alms boxe’ (boxes in which people had placed gifts of money) and distribute the contents to poor people in the neighbourhood on the day after Christmas.

Yule & Pagan Festivities

Yule means “feast”. Yule derives from the early Scandinavians and refers to the festival at the Winter Solstice. For ancient Germanic and Celtic people, the impulse to celebrate solstice was a celebration of the cycle of nature and a reaffirmation of the continuation of life. These northern cultures survived a colder, darker winter and thus held a great celebration. This was held at the turning of the year on the shortest day – December 21 – which heralds the return of the sun’s light and warmth.

Many ancient traditions surrounding Yuletide are concerned with coping with the darkness and evils. In Shetland, there is still an Annual Up Helly Aa Viking style celebration of mid winter where a procession takes place throughout the town ending in a longboat being set alight in the harbour. Holly Evergreens were cherished at this time of year as a natural symbol of rebirth and life amid winter whiteness. But holly is prickly and will see off evil spirits before they could enter and harm a household.

The Julbukk, or Yule goat, from Sweden and Norway, carried the god Thor. Now he carries the Yule elf to deliver presents and receive his offering of porridge. In Iceland the giant Yule Cat eats humans who have not contributed to the community’s work. Other Germanic, Scandinavian, Viking and Celtic traditions include mistletoe and the Evergreen tree – in many places, hung upside down; and there’s the famous Yule Log.

Other Non-Christian Gift Giving Festivals

Although Christmas is celebrated by many non-Christians, there are alternative winter gift-giving holidays instead of or in addition to Christmas.

  • Judaism’s Hanukkah has developed a tradition of gift-giving similar to Christmas.
  • Christmas has some acceptance in the Islamic world, where Jesus is regarded as a prophet. Additionally, the observance of Eid ul-Fitr is sometimes accompanied by greetings similar to traditional Christmas greetings.
  • Diwali is a Festival of Light in India and it is important to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and some Nepalese Buddhists. This involves decoration with lights and giving gifts.
  • Observances of the Kwanzaa festival, which reinforces African American heritage, are also celebrated in December with decorations, feasts, and gift-giving.
  • Many atheists and modern-day pagans celebrate the winter Solstice as an alternative to religious end-of-year holidays.

Eid ul-Fitr

Eid ul-Fitr often abbreviated as simply Eid, is an Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. On the day of the celebration, a typical Muslim family gets up very early and attends special prayers held only for the occasion in big mosques. The festivities and merriment start after the prayers with visits to the homes of friends and relatives and thanking the Creator for all blessings. Eid is a time to come together as a community and to renew friendship and family ties. This is a time for peace for all Muslims in the world to devote to prayers and mutual well-being.

Diwali

Diwali is a major Indian and Nepalese festive holiday, and a significant religious festival for Hinduism , Jainism and Sikhism. It is celebrated as the “Festival of Light,” where lights or lamps are displayed to signify the victory of good over the evil. It may have originated as a harvest festival, marking the last harvest of the year before winter. In India, it is a national festival enjoyed by most regardless of faith. Homes are decorated with lights, fireworks are set off and sweets and gifts are given. Prayers are also said to various gods who are associated with the festival. The date, like Easter in Christian Faiths, is calculated and is usually around the end of October, beginning of November.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah or Chanukah is a Jewish holiday, also known as the Festival or Feast of Lights. Hanukkah is a Hebrew word meaning “dedication”. Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, and the holiday is celebrated for eight days. The start of Hanukkah usually falls in December but occasionally is in late November. The festival is observed in Jewish homes by the kindling of special Hanukkah lights on each of the festival’s eight nights. A special 8 limbed lamp is used which symbolises the lamp that remained lit for 8 days although only having oil for one.

Images © Edward Martin, Archive Services University of Dundee| Licensor Scran

Santa Claus A.K.A. Father Christmas

18th December 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

03110067Santa Claus (also known as Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santy or simply Santa) is a folk hero in various cultures who distributes gifts to children, traditionally on Christmas Eve. Each name is a variation of Saint Nicholas, but refers to Santa Claus.

Father Christmas is a well-loved figure in the United Kingdom and similar in many ways, though the two have quite different origins. Nowadays, Father Christmas is used as a more formal name for Santa Claus. Father Christmas is present in Italy (“Babbo Natale”), Brazil (“Papai Noel”), Portugal (“Pai Natal”), Romania (“Moş Crăciun”), Germany (“Weihnachtsmann”), France and French-speaking Canada (“Le Père Noël”) and South Africa.

In popular mythology, Santa lives at the North Pole – or in Lapland. Many children write letters to Santa each year revealing what they would like to receive as gifts. It is also usual to leave a treat for Santa and his reindeers on Christmas Eve. It can be quite exhausting getting down all those chimneys!

Saint Nicholas

02555625Santa derives from European folk tales based on the historical figure Saint Nicholas, a bishop from present-day Turkey, who gave presents to the poor. This inspired the mythical figure of Sinterklaas, the subject of a major celebration in the Netherlands and Belgium (where his alleged birthday is celebrated), which in turn inspired both the myth and the name of Santa Claus.

In many Eastern Orthodox traditions, Santa Claus visits children on New Year’s Day and is identified with Saint Basil whose memory is celebrated on that day.

Depictions of Santa Claus also have a close relationship with the Russian character of Ded Moroz (“Grandfather Frost”). He delivers presents to children and has a red coat, fur boots and long white beard. Much of the iconography of Santa Claus could be seen to derive from Russian traditions of Ded Moroz, particularly transmitted into western European culture through his German folklore equivalent, Väterchen Frost.

Development of the Santa Image

09634040The plump figure in the fur trimmed suit is a relatively recent image developed through the 19th Century.

In 1809, Washington Irving published A History of New York, by “Diedrich Knickerbocker,” a work that poked fun at New York’s Dutch past (St. Nicholas included). Irving revised his History of New York in 1812, adding details about Nicholas “riding over the tops of the trees, in that self same waggon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children.” In 1821, a New York printer named William Gilley issued a poem about a “Santeclaus” who dressed all in fur and drove a sleigh pulled by one reindeer.

On Christmas Eve of 1822, another New Yorker, Clement Clarke Moore, wrote down and read to his children a series of verses; his poem was published a year later as “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas”. This is the first naming of Santa’s reindeers and one of the first published accounts of access by chimney. It also sets the tone of a fat, jolly figure.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Nast, Sundblom & Coca Cola

02101206In 1863, Thomas Nast – a caricaturist for Harper’s Weekly – developed his own image of Santa. Nast drew his figure with a “flowing set of whiskers” and “all in fur, from his head to his foot.” Nast drew Santa in many sizes from miniature to large. His 1881 “Merry Old Santa Claus” drawing is close to the modern-day image.

Thus, the Santa Claus figure we know today, although not yet standardized in size perhaps presciently to allow chimney access, was everywhere by the late 19th century. At the beginning of the 1930s, the Coca-Cola company wanted to increase sales during winter. An illustrator named Haddon Sundblom created the figure of a larger than life, red-and-white garbed Santa Claus for them. And since then, illustrations have followed the formula of a larger than life, rotund, red-suited, bewhiskered jolly man.

Images © Glasgow University Library, National Museums Scotland, The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Scotsman Licensor Scran

Hand-me-down

22nd November 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

An adventure in women’s domestic needlecraft

Sewing Class, Glasgow 1953

In 2017, the year of History, Heritage & Archaeology, our small social enterprise, Mrs Magooty led by Sarah Longfield and Katrina Caldwell, embarked on an adventure.

Our mission was to scour the archives for examples of women’s domestic needlecraft in Scotland through the ages. We wanted images of normal women sewing, knitting and stitching.  We also wanted to see examples of their work.  Our intention was to then create a video collage of all these images and film snippets and share them in practical textile art workshops to inspire making and sharing of stories about our personal craft heritages.

Sewing Sampler, Leadhills 1891

As you might suspect, we had to search hard. Women’s domestic needlecraft is not the priority for documentation in times past.  However, after many enjoyable hours trawling through a wealth of search terms on Scran, we had a long list of 180 images.  Gulp!  We also rambled through the Moving Image Archive on a similar quest for films. The shortlisting process was both enjoyable and painful. Choosing between these examples of people’s exquisite work and between wonderful images capturing everyday life for women through the ages was no easy task, but eventually 7 film clips and 30 images were selected and licences applied for. Hand-Me-Down was ready to roll!

The response to the video we made was fabulous. For some participants it jogged memories of their school days or of granny, for other participants it was a new window into a past that they hadn’t experienced or had little access to discovering. Each individual in the workshops created a small piece of textile art and we gathered all in to mount our first exhibition at the Project Café in Glasgow. It was so popular we extended the exhibition and it ran through all of January and into February 2018.

Each piece was either a reflection on that person’s craft heritage or was inspired by the film. Below are 2 works which were directly inspired by items in Scran.

“Shrigley Sun” by Katrina Caldwell is inspired by “Festival of Britain 1951” a cushion cover by Kathleen Whyte which was part of The Needlework Development Scheme which ran from 1934 – 1961. The scheme began in Scotland and was a collaborative project between art and design education and industry, commissioning some really beautiful pieces to encourage embroidery and good design. The scheme was financed by JP Coates of Paisley the thread manufacturer. This cushion currently resides at the National Museum of Scotland.   Katrina was drawn to this record and inspired to create “Shrigley Sun” because she loves mid-century design and we wanted to acknowledge the Needlework Development Scheme in our project.

“Mauchline Memories” by Sarah Longfield takes its inspiration from a Mauchline ware box for cotton reels which is in the Nithsdale museum. Thread boxes or places to keep those all-important buttons and bits & bobs are an instant attraction to most crafters and Sarah shares this passion for boxes and tins to put things in. Instead of the portraits of Burns on the original box, this piece incorporates little things from Sarah’s past: a crystal from the necklace worn on her wedding day, a button from her first school jumper and other mementos physically demonstrating her own heritage. It is worked in Miyuki seed and bugle beads, incorporating beadwork stitches: dutch spiral and spiral staircase, plus bead embroidery techniques.

You can see all the ‘Hand-me-down’ work on Mrs Magooty’s social media too.

Images © The Herald, Leadhills Reading Society, Dumfries & Galloway Council, National Museums Scotland Licensor Scran