Merry Christmas, 2000


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    First Christmas Card

    This is a reproduction (probably poor) of the first Christmas card. It was designed in 1843 by J.C. Horsley, R.A for Sir Henry Cole, and later published for general sale (in 1846) by Summerlys Home Treasury Office on Old Bond Street, London. The Christmas card originated in England. Christmas cards were put into mass production in the 1860s when innovations in printing technology made it easy to do this.


    Christmas in the Peninsula
    There don't appear to have been a great number of celebrations of Christmas in Wellington's army on the Peninsular. Christmas would have come when the army was in winter quarters - for the most part anyway. There was of course the disastorous retreat to Corunna in 1808 which started over Christmas. I have taken a few of the accounts written in diaries and biographies of the time.

    Sir John Kincaid (of the 95th which was in the light division) doesn't mention anything special they did at Christmas but seems to imply they kept themselves fairly active and amused despite that all through the months from October to December.
    "In ever interval between our active services, we indulged in all manner of childish trick and amusement....We lived, united as men always are who are daily staring death in the face on the same side, adn, who , caring little about it, look upon each new day added to their lives as one more to regoince in. We invited the villagers every evening to a dance at our quarters alternately..... We used to flourish away at the bolero, fandango and waltz and we wound up early int eh evening with a supper of roast chestnuts."

    Private Wheeler, A soldier in the 51st (in the 7th division) writes to his family on 28th of December 1811;
    "I have nothing particular to write as we still remain in our old quarters. The greatest evil attending us at present is we want our new clothing, and a fresh supply of necessaries from England, this we are dailey [sic] expecting. We have spent our Christmas as comfortable as our situation would permit, The weather is very cold and we have had much snow - the oldest people say they do not remember such a great fall."

    A soldier from the 68th Regiment about Christmas in 1812:
    "...we killed a young kid for our Christmas dinner, and we had what we considered a delightful repast, but nothing to be compared to what some of the poorest peasants have in England."   

    One 43rd Light Infantry officer in 1813 recounted :
    "Just before dark while passing a corporal's picquet, an officer and myself stood for a few minutes, to contemplate a poor woman, who had brought her little pudding and her child from her distant quarters, to partake of [Christmas] with her husband, but the side of a small fire kindled under a tree."

    John Cooper of the 7th Royal Fusiliers in 1813 suggests that they didn't really celebrate it until 1813.
    "Here for the first time in the Peninsula we kept Christmas. Every man contributed some money, meat or wine. A sheep or two were bought and killed.  Pies and puddings were baked, etc. Plates, knives and forks, were not plentiful, yet we managed to diminish the stock of eatables in quick time. For desert we had plenty of apples; and for a finish, two or three bandsmen played merry tunes, while many warmed their toes by dancing jigs and reels."


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