It is unknown when we first started
decorating our Home Pages with greens for winter holidays; however, it is
certain that this custom pre-dates Christianity. In a famous letter,
Pope Gregory advises Augustine of Canterbury to allow pagan customs
capable of Christian interpretation to remain.
Holly, ivy, mistletoe and all varieties of
evergreens were brought into the Home Pages of Victorian families at
Christmastime. For those who lived in a city and could not gather
their own greens, holly and evergreens were sold from carts that
vendors pulled through the streets. "Cries" carried baskets of
mistletoe and ivy on their backs and arms. The greens were fashioned
into balls, wreaths, garlands and swags that were used to decorate
first Christmas tree to appear in England in 1841 is credited to
Prince Albert who brought this custom from his German Home Pageland. It
quickly caught on and soon became a part of every family's
celebration. The customs of evergreens and trees actually arrived in
America before it arrived in England thanks to our early Dutch and
The first Christmas card was posted in 1843.
Sir Henry Cole commissioned John Calott Horsley to design for him a
card which he could send to his family and friends to eliminate the
need of writing traditional seasonal letters to each of them. The
novelty caught on, and by the 1880s, millions of cards were sold.
they are today, Christmas cards were available in a vast array of
designs so that the sender could choose a card which reflected his
sentiments. Popular artists such as Kate Greenaway designed cards
with lovely renderings of charming young ladies. Pictures ranged
from beautiful drawings that reflected the aesthetic movement of the
time to humorous cartoons which sometimes became insulting or
macabre, as in one extreme example of a husband murdering his wife.
The Victorians certainly had a strange sense of humor. Perhaps this
card illustrated the day the Christmas bills arrived.
Anniversary Party at
Byers' Choice Ltd.
June 6th - 8th 2003, Byers' Choice will be hosting a special weekend
in celebration of our 25th Anniversary. Our first open house was
held in the Spring of 2001. More than 5,000 visitors came from forty
plus states to Byers' Choice in Chalfont, PA to partake in a special
behind the scenes tour of the Caroler factory. The weekend was a
great opportunity for Caroler fans and our creative artisans to meet
and discuss what makes the Carolers so unique. We have already begun
plans to make next year's gathering even more special than the
first, so mark your calendar. It is certain to be a fun weekend, and
we hope that you will be able to join us. Look for more information
about this event in your next Caroler Chronicle©.
Winterthur Museum and Gardens -- an American Country
Located in nearby Delaware, Winterthur is
the former Home Page of Henry Francis du Pont (1880-1969), an avid
antiques collector, horticulturist and gentleman farmer. In the
early 20th century, H. F. du Pont and his father, Henry Algernon du
Pont, designed Winterthur, the family estate, in the spirit of 18th-
and19th-century European country houses.
Today, the museum is Home Page to more than
85,000 American antiques displayed in
magnificent period rooms. Winterthur is also well known for its
garden, its design is carefully orchestrated to show color from
January through November. Waterways, rolling meadows and stone
bridges wonderfully accent the grounds. A visitor can also view
reconstructed workshops to learn how furniture and clocks were made
by early American craftsmen. The Enchanted Woodsª and Touch-It Room
offer fun ways for children to play and learn.
at Winterthur: Decorating for the Holidays is on view from
November 9th to January 5th. This exhibit pairs recreations of early
American holiday traditions with rooms decorated in a more modern
fashion to show how Yuletide practices have evolved over the years.
Visitors can see how presents were wrapped and distributed in
earlier times. More than twelve table-top trees, with decorations
ranging from cut paper to lace, are also on display. (Fee charged).
Byers' Choice has partnered with the non-profit Winterthur to create
special figures to help share the history and beauty of America's
past. Proceeds support the maintenance and development of Winterthur,
an American Country Estate, and the furtherance of its educational
programs. Winterthur is open seven days a week, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00
p.m. except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. For more
information, please call 800-448-3883 or visit www.winterthur.org.
Baking Christmas cookies is something the
Byers family has taken seriously for many generations. Not only
favorite recipes, but also cookie cutters, springerle rolling pins,
rosette irons and cookie presses have been handed down from one
generation to the next.
Baking would begin weeks before Christmas.
Mothers and daughters would bake their favorites and then trade or
share with one another. Now, all could treat their holiday guests to
beautiful trays containing a dazzling array of yummy treats. Walnut
Kisses were made with nuts gathered from under the tree next to the
barn. Dad helped shell them by clamping them in his vise. Lace
cookies so thin you could see through them. Peppermints, Jelly Gems
and paper-thin Sand Tarts sat next to Sugar cookies cut in many
shapes and decorated with colored sugars and icing. Ginger cookies
and cookies with raisins competed with old standbys such as oatmeal,
peanut butter, chocolate chip, snickerdoodles and brownies.
Decisions, decisions . . . the word calorie was never mentioned.
Boy and Girl Baking are busy in the kitchen making
their favorite cookies for Santa to enjoy on Christmas Eve!
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup flaked coconut, chopped
- 1/2 cup margarine
- 1/2 cup light Karo corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix flour and coconut in a separate bowl. Combine Karo syrup, brown
sugar and margarine in a heavy pan. Bring to a boil, stirring
constantly. Remove from heat and gradually blend in flour mixture,
then vanilla. Drop on foil-covered cookie sheet by small
teaspoonfuls, 3 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10
minutes. Cool on wire rack until foil can be peeled off. Yields
about 4 dozen.
Hitting the Slopes . . .
Boy and Girl with Skis, new for 2002, are joining their
parents for an afternoon of wintery fun at the lodge -- knit hats
and scarves are sure to keep them warm from the cold!
Dickens Comes to Occoquan, VA
Christmas is a time filled with traditions,
one of which is the reading of A Christmas Carol, a favorite
among many families. But the Golden Goose, a retailer who has been
carrying the Carolers for more than twenty years, has taken this
Christmas affair to a new level. Each year, they invite Gerald
Charles Dickens, the great-great-grandson of the author, to come to
Occoquan, VA for a special reading of the holiday classic for their
Mr. Dickens bases his performance on the
abbreviated stage version that Charles Dickens performed when he
first came to America in 1842. He adopts different voices,
expressions and mannerisms to portray each of the story's twenty-six
characters, and tries to involve the audience in each performance.
"He is just wonderful!" says Golden Goose
owner, Laverne Carson, who is bringing Gerald Dickens back for the
sixth time on November 24, 2002. "We have people who will come back
every year. They enjoy the performance so much, and he is just a
wonderful person to talk to."
more information about the Golden Goose and its upcoming events,
call 703-494-4964 or visit www.goldgoose.com.
Expect the first to-morrow, when the bell tolls One . . .
Those of you who are familiar with Charles
Dickens' well-loved story, A Christmas Carol, will remember
the Ghost of Spirit Past, the first of the three spirits to
visit Ebenezer Scrooge, as arriving in a flash of light. Dickens
describes this unearthly visitor as "strange -- like a child:
yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some
supernatural medium . . . Its hair was white as if with age; and yet
the face had not a wrinkle . . . It wore a tunic of purest white;
and around its waist was bound a lustrous belt . . . It held a
branch of fresh green holly . . . and a dress trimmed with summer
flowers . . . from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear
jet of light . . . a great extinguisher for a cap, which was held
under its arm."
Byers' Choice's first interpretation of this
figure was released in 1987. The following year, a slightly
different version was introduced. In 2002, the Ghost of Spirit
Past III has reappeared for those of you who missed his earlier
appearance. If you would like to include him in your A Christmas
Carol grouping, you must act quickly as he will disappear on
Christmas Eve when Scrooge pushes the great extinguisher over him
and puts out his light!