reverse of this card reads: ‘This Christmas let’s annihilate Drink and it’s
[sic] hollow joys; Use drinks that ne’er inebriate, and shun that which
destroys. So hey! For tea and harmless drink, pure water with good health,
light rising, and brain clear, to think, With peace, and work, and wealth!’ (ID
Puns, riddles and satire
Christmas has always been a time for fun and games, and many of the cards in the collection feature puns, riddles and satire. Some of the word play is relatively simple, like the card captioned ‘Ye Christmas Tale’, with a pipe cleaner for the cat’s tail! This was possibly aimed at children, but cards with more complex verses and riddles are likely to have been aimed at an older audience. However, such ‘unlovely cards’ were disapproved by card critics of the time, and many considered them beneath their notice, in contrast to their popularity. Yet curiously there are a number of examples of creepy-crawly insects appearing on early Christmas cards. One rather grotesque card encouraging troubles to ‘fly’ depicts three flies on a sugar cube! Rats and mice often decorated Victorian Christmas cards, which was a curious choice given the perpetual war waged against them by homemakers.
Another genre was of those cards sporting puns, riddles and
hidden messages, like one of a teacup with the message ‘with best wishes’
hidden in the tea leaves. From this card we not only learn about the
popularity of tea drinking, but the practice of reading tea leaves as well. Interestingly,
the verse on the back gives a warning against drinking alcohol. Additionally, many
cards in the museum’s collection feature porcelain, highlighting that this was
something else that wealthy Victorians liked to collect. Sets and series of Christmas cards were
also collected and a number of examples appear in the collection, like the set
of four cards of theatre attendees, which makes a satirical comment about the
different social classes.