Merry Christmas, and I hope it’s a happy season for you and those you love.
That’s a much older (and slightly sinister) version of Father Christmas from 1855, before he turned into jolly red-faced, red-hooded Santa.
Old Father Christmas
His yule log is strapped to his back, he’s crowned with holly, and he carries a wassail bowl. I’d guess he’s dressed in green. Very pagan.
I’m not sure I’d trust him popping down the chimney into a child’s bedroom. But then, he comes from a time when Christmas was more for the grown-ups than for children, which it became later in the 19th century.
But it’s still on a sad note.
Now that it’s the holidays, I’ve got some time for genealogical research (yayyy!). I was looking for my great-great grandfather, George Richard or Richards. He was the father of Elizabeth, who married Griffith Owen from Anglesey. As far as I know George was not a relative of my other Richards family.
George Richard was born in St Dogmael’s, also known as St Dogmell’s, on the border of Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire and sometimes in one county, sometimes in the other. It’s on the other side of the river Teifi from Cardigan/Aberteifi.
And I came across a record in the Pembrokeshire Burials at FindMyPast. Very simple, very short, it told a sad story.
A five-month old baby called Christmas, buried on 5 May 1848. No surname. And looking at where she or he (we don’t even know that) spent their short life… it was the workhouse.
I checked the baptism records and couldn’t find any babies who matched.
So… no surname, no recorded parents, died at the workhouse. Would I be right in picturing a desperate woman abandoning her newly-born illegitimate child at the workhouse in late December 1847, where the staff named the little scrap after the Christmas season? Or perhaps Christmas’s mother was already in the workhouse and died in or after childbirth.
I hope this hasn’t saddened you – it just seemed such a poignant story I wanted to share it.
May you be surrounded with the love of family, friends or whoever is dear to you this festive season.
Old Father Christmas: Forrester’s Pictorial Miscellany for the Family Circle, 1855, via Sherurcij for Wikimedia
Map of St Dogmell’s: OS Great Britain, 1″, 1885-1900, via National Library of Scotland
St Dogmael’s burial records: FindMyPast, Pembroke burials