Christmas was not always celebrated as it is now. The issue of the Blackburn Mail, which was actually published on December 25th 1793, has no reference to Christmas whatsoever. Clearly then it was not a day for celebration and probably not a holiday for most people.
One hundred years later things were very different. Blackburn had become a town, no longer a large village. There was greater prosperity. Christmas had become a commercial opportunity. Queen Victoria had made Christmas trees fashionable. Charles Dickens had single-handedly invented many of the traditions we associate with Christmas. The Blackburn Standard for December 23rd 1893 is full of articles and stories about Christmas. Shop displays are described in great detail, especially the butchers and poulterers: Messrs Munroe and Miller of the Market House had a display of a thousand turkeys, Fylde-fed geese, hares, pheasants, partridges and grouse, along with seasonal fruit and flowers. The best display of all though was at Messrs Worswick Bros, the furriers in King William Street. They had got their window up as a forest scene and filled it with stuffed examples of best-selling lines: Tiger, leopard, Russian wolf, seal, otter etc.
The paper carried a stern editorial criticising a London-based lady journalist, who had written a world-weary piece complaining that Christmas had become too long, too overblown and that there was nothing to do, but eat and drink too much in the company of relatives one couldn't stand. Wonder what she'd think of today's Christmases.
In Darwen too Christmas had blossomed and Darwen's shops too did not lag behind in displaying their abundance. The accompanying piece from the Darwen News for December 22nd 1888 captures the spirit of the season.
Fifty years later the Northern Daily Telegraph for December 24th 1943 reflects the sombre war-time mood. Christmas is featured, but it is clearly going to be a low-key affair. There will be no oranges, apples or nuts in Christmas stockings. Chickens and turkeys are in short supply, and an item about a woman making new clothes out of her husband's old suit to give to her children at Christmas is reported with great approval.
Today Christmas is more bloated and demanding than ever before. The carols are echoing round the shopping centres from November onwards, and when most people can eat and drink more than is good for them every day of the year, doing justice to Christmas requires a real effort. Most homes with children in them look like Santa's grotto on Christmas morning. It makes you wonder: had Scrooge got it right in the first place, before the ghosts started meddling with him?
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