Christmas Lessons from the Past

Christmas Lessons from the Past
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ChristmasI love vintage Christmas ideas, especially those written during World War 1, World War II or The Depression.  Why?  Because those were times where not only was it a necessity to be frugal, but they were doing their best to keep up their family‘s morale. This often resulted in people becoming very creative, especially during the holidays.

Modern Priscilla magazine, specifically their December 1917 issue, is a case in point. In April of 1917, the United States declared war on Germany, so it was a tough time for everyone especially when conscription (military draft) began in June. Imagine that by December many families were without their husbands, brothers and sons plus money was extremely tight. The magazine attempted to lift spirits while giving homemakers practical advice to help them through the holidays.

In this issue of Modern Priscilla there are many suggestions for crochet, embroidery, sewn gifts and knitted items. There are also suggestions for "Inexpensive Gifts", which I‘d like to share:

Guest Napkin Rings: Very dainty and inexpensive guest napkin rings can be made from brass curtain rings one and one-half inches in diameter. They can be purchased for a cent apiece. Bind very tightly with narrow ribbon so that the ring is entirely hidden. Cover the loop also and finish with a tiny bow. Use satin ribbon in delicate shades. When finished, you will have a pretty and distinctive napkin ring for each guest.

A Luncheon Set of Linen: If your husband or brother has consigned an old pair of linen trousers to the attic, get them out and make a luncheon set of them. Cut doilies the different sizes needed and crochet a simple edge around them, or embroider, as desired. In the same way, centres for doilies may be obtained from old linen shirt-waists.

A Gift for Mending Mothers: Tie a few Christmas tree and holly twigs together in a symmetrical bunch. Slip spools of thread, silk, darning cotton and basting cotton over the twig ends. Tie firmly to the twigs papers of needles of different sizes, thimbles, scissors, tape measure and any other desired articles, and tie up where possible in bright red paper to simulate blossoms. In one blossom tie a substantial bill for the purchase of a new lining for the basket or for any forgotten article.

Any of the items needed for the suggestions above can be found in thrift stores, which carries the frugal thought even farther by not buying new supplies. The last suggestion for the "Mending Mother" could be varied for someone who knits crochets etc. It's also a lovely idea for a newly married woman.

Lastly I wanted to share some neat little verses the magazine supplied to accompany certain gifts. I thought these were unique little verses that could be hand written on a gift card with the item mentioned for a fun small gift. They are quite odd, which should bring smiles.

Books: Old books like old friends are best,
I'm sure this adage is true.
So I've selected (title of book).
To say "Merry Christmas" to you.

Thimble: I'm only a silver thimble
But I'm useful when darning a sock;
I'm so glad you came to my rescue,
When you heard Old Santa Claus knock.

General Use: I'm sending this gift to remind you
That the glad Christmastide is here.
May it be the happiest Christmas
You've had for many a year.

Handkerchiefs: These 'kerchiefs hold kind wishes true
May you find them very useful too;
I hope they'll match your Sunday clothes
And if they don't-- why then your nose.

It puts things into perspective for me when I think of what families went through during this time of world war. I’m sure many women in particular found it hard to keep up the Christmas spirit, but they persevered because they knew it was what they needed to do. It’s a lesson for all of us when we are feeling overwhelmed, and giving into the pressure of an over the top holiday that somehow is missing the spirit of Christmas.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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