Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Christmas cards

Myffanwy Bryant, The lost art of the Christmas card, ANMM Blog, 24 December 2016

It was bound to happen. There was only one this year: a lone Christmas card arriving in my mailbox, stoically spreading Christmas cheer and best wishes for the season. Likely, next year there will be none and although we may discover new ways to spread cheer, via emails or seasonal emojis, but for me, the demise of the Christmas card is cause for some lament.

The museum has a collection of Christmas cards, that in addition to being a poignant reminder of their long gone senders, inadvertently tell a social history of colonial Australia. There is nary a pine tree, bell or snowman to be seen. European settlers realised early on that celebrating the holiday with traditional accompaniments didn’t fit with an Australian summer and they quickly embraced Christmas by the water.

Residents and immigrants used Christmas cards to send love and wishes back ‘home’. These utopian scenes did as much for tourism and immigration to Australia as they did in spreading Christmas cheer. Beachside ‘bathing’ scenes were a popular topic on the cards as were water sports such as rowing, fishing and sailing. We were becoming a nation of maritime lovers in as many ways as we could.

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Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
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