In late November 1915 a local newspaper helpfully provided a “humorous” series of 1915 Christmas “don’ts” to help its readers avoid any seasonal social faux-pas.
These were as follows:
- Don’t arrive half an hour too soon and jocularly explain that you’ve come to avoid the crush;
- Don’t entertain the company with a humorous description of the old gentleman you saw coming up the street. He may arrive later;
- Don’t always catch the same girl when playing blind man’s buff. People may suspect that you can see;
- Don’t attempt to do conjuring tricks unless you have tried them before;
- Don’t say “I thought so” when you are informed the mince pies are homemade – it’s ambiguous;
- Don’t say that the plum pudding is “just like mothers”. It might be considered a poor compliment;
- Don’t say “That yarn of yours always makes me laugh” when your host introduces his annual joke. It sounds like another way of saying “Chestnuts”;
- Don’t sing more than half-a-dozen songs in succession because – well, it’s bad for the voice;
- Don’t, when asked to take a glass of port wine, sip it, and then inquire whether it’s port or sherry. You may be misunderstood; and
- Don’t, when conversing harp on the “ripping time” you had at Brown’s the other night. It savours of odious comparisons.
I’m not sure how many of these handy hints would apply to the party season a century on – perhaps they still should! Although an idealistic and possibly tongue in cheek portrayal of life, they do evoke some of the gentility, values and manners of a Christmas 100 years ago. They also provide a contrast to the War raging on the continent.
For me these contemporaneous snippets, with their wonderful phraseology and language, help make family history more than just finding a trail of names and dates. They give a flavour of the times in which my ancestors lived. And you never know, the tips might prove handy this year!
- “Batley News” – 27 November 1915