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A ‘Christmassy’ Dome? c1910

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Christmas postcard showing The Dome, c1910

Christmas postcard showing The Dome, c1910

A tradition of the British festive season is to remark on whether the occasion feels ‘Christmassy’ or not. This slightly torturous colloquialism may seem like a recent invention, but according to the Oxford English Dictionary it dates back to at least 1882. Significantly, the words ‘Eastery’ or ‘Halloweeny’ have never entered the popular lexicon.

So what makes something Christmassy? Red breasted robins, red nosed reindeers, and a red cheeked Noddy Holder bellowing ‘Merry Xmas’ will do it for most. But this postcard probably won’t. It may proclaim ‘Best Christmas Wishes’ in gold, but the sentiments are not followed by a sense of the season. With its heavy use of green and the blooming flowers, it presents a rather verdant and summery landscape. The Dome, with its ‘oriental’ architecture, looks more suited to Xanadu than Lapland. There’s neither snow nor Santa here.

Yet postcards like this were common during the festive seasons of the early twentieth century. We hold several postcards in our collection which carry a Christmas greeting; in most of these, the image side has little to do with the season. Folded and decorated Christmas cards had been in existence since the 1840s, but they were expensive. After 1902, picture postcards provided a cheap and popular alternative. Canny postcard manufacturers could also revive old stock by adding a seasonal message.

So if you still think this postcard is not very Christmassy, think again. It is evidence of a now long lost Christmas tradition.

Kevin Bacon, Curator of Photographs