Saturday, December 14, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Christmas Card, c. 1850

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This chromolithograph Christmas card depicts two children engaged in collecting mistletoe and holly branches in a forest. A cartouche bearing a Christmas poem fills the open clearing. The boy carries mistletoe and a holly branch as the young girl reaches for a sprig of mistletoe.

The verse reads:

Christmas Greeting
The leaf shall laugh,
The berry shall glow,
For joy of our hearts
'Neath the mistletoe

This card celebrates the tradition of kissing beneath the mistletoe, a practice which originated in an old Norse practice of warring enemies calling truce under mistletoe, and sealing their pledge with a kiss. Not what one exactly pictures when one thinks about Vikings. The kiss, it seems, symbolized an exchange of souls. Plus, I guess, it was a way to keep warm.

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