One of these years, I'm going to send Christmas cards again --- a lovely thing to do; every one that works its way through the complexity of address changes in recent years is appreciated. I enjoy annual Chrstmas letters, too --- even when the signature is photoduplicated. It's just not clear that this is going to be the year, however. Laziness, plus too much energy expended here and elsewhere.
But I have been looking at some of the antique cards scattered around, most dating from before 1900, a few framed, others kept in an antique lap desk from the 1880s and a badly frayed post card album dating most likely from the 1890s.
Most Christmas cards at that time were postcards and so are most of these, many with hand-written messages and stamps on their backs; others were enclosed with letters and bear no personalization at all; some were just handed, person to person, and have brief dedications.
This elaborate St. Nicholas, heavily embossed in Germany, stays out year-around in a comparably elaborate frame because I like to look at it. It is not a family card, but one of a handful given to me when I lived in the little Norwegian town of Thompson in Winnebago County --- insrribed to "little Julia."
I know who Julia was --- daughter of Norwegian emigrants living in a simple little house on the north Iowa prairie. And I know how she spent Christmas Eve --- gathered with neighbors in the lamp-lit sanctuary of old West Prairie Lutheran Church, its soaring steeple a landmark visible for miles, where a Christmas tree was erected each year within the half circle of the communion rail in front of the wedding cake altar.
There were hardly any trees at all then on the recently broken prairie, so acquiring an evergreen was a considerable accomplishment. Real candles were placed on it and lighted --- just once and briefly as adults held their breaths, eying the buckets of water placed alongside just in case.
The other two cards here are from the lap desk, but neither is inscribed. Most likely they were enclosed in letters. Both are tiny, in the neighborhood of 2 by 3 inches.
I like the little tri-fold card with pastel pink flowers on its front best. It also includes a diminutive Christmas message inside.
Although the other card bears a printed "My Message," it apparently was the message itself since nothing is written inside its single fold.
It's notable that under 10 percent of these vintage Christmas greetings incorporates religious imagery. Maybe we should analyze that.
Two 27-ounce jars of pie-ready None Such mincemeat are now in the cupboard after a return trip to Knoxville, so things are looking up.
Although resigned to reconstituting what could be found on Hy-Vee shelves, a fellow fan of mincemeat encouraged perseverance during coffee with the artists yesterday morning --- she pointed out that Walmart mincemeat was kept in a seasonal mid-aisle baking display I'd missed and that if all had been sold by the time I got there again, Fareway --- a little farther north along Highway 14 --- buys mincemeat in bulk, then repackages it for sale by the pint. Four jars were left at Walmart. I took half.
Another minor Christmas issue resolved itself at the dump Sunday afternoon, when I hauled away the carcasses of two huge chrysanthemus that bloomed on the front steps this fall (this is a dump for vegetative matter only, remember).
Pulling up, I spotted a small pile of trimmings from both a white pine and spruce tree --- just what was needed to refresh the greenery around the big wheel of the Advent wreath at church before lighting the Christ candle on Christmas Eve. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of burning the church down during the celebration of Christmas, always an unattractive thing to do.
So I loaded the evergreen boughs in the back of the pickup --- and now the garage smells seasonally appropriate when I go out to open the door in the morning.