Have you done your Christmas shopping yet? Sorry, no pressure, and don’t worry, I’m woefully behind on mine. For the first time, Lily-Rose wrote a letter to Father Christmas as she is desperate to get a certain toy in her stocking, so she grasped the pen in her little five-year old hand and then started crying as she had writer’s block. Oh, the drama. How much simpler things were in years gone by….
Christmas Presents (1882) Hugo Oehmichen
Those were the days, when you were happy with an apple and a wooden windmill. These children appear to be leaving a church or convent school, with gifts from the benevolent nun, just seen in the doorway. This is a fascinating picture as the more you look, the more you see. For example…
Here is a nice poor family, and the children have had some great gifts. Who wouldn’t want a jaunty windmill on Christmas day, although in his excitement, Windmill-Boy has dropped his apples. The other boy offers what looks like a cross to his baby sister, but doesn’t appear to be wearing any boots. He carries some, so maybe he has been given a new pair. The mother doesn’t look overjoyed, just tired and poor and her facial expression is echoed in that of the girl in the centre.
It strikes me that they both look sad and thoughtful, possibly because charity provides their Christmas for them, rather than providing it themselves like nice Victorians are meant to. She may be the oldest child there, and so unlike her delighted companions, she knows that life is unrelentingly hard, despite moments of bestowed joy.
I love the little blonde girl, who rather stands out with her pale blue pinafore and fair curls. She represents the simple, childlike pleasure of Christmas, filled with glee over her new doll and whatever else she has stashed in her apron. The reason she is so happy might be that she swiped the church silver on the way out and that’s what is bundled in her pinafore. Bloody orphans.
Balancing the image, on the other side to the poor mother and her family, is the wealthy family.
Now, did the little girl say ‘Mama, all I want for Christmas is to point at some poor people’? Well, Santa obviously got her letter, and Grandma is having a good point too. I wonder if the little girl is gesturing at the orphan who has a new ABC book?
‘Quick, Grandmama! They’re learning to read! No good will come of it!’
Now, in my opinion, even worse than allowing poor people to read is arming them with a whip like this little boy…
Come the class war and he’s already armed. Little did the Nun suspect that the boy already knew what he was going to do with his new whip. At home was Rex the dog and Flora the pig, and together they would take the world by storm….
See you tomorrow!