Tuesday, 24 December 2013


Christmas Eve, tonight an excerpt from what Christmas was like in Adelaide back in 1880, taken from "The South Australian Register" - Monday 27 December 1880
Christchurch Kapunda 1895 - Christmas Eve


Englishmen are proverbially conservative,and wherever they make their home they seem inclined to retain as far as possible the customs of their native land. In these Australian colonies, however, with the sun registering100s Fahrenheit, or thereabouts, in the Sun, it would be simple folly to attempt to keep Christmas in the old-fashioned style — to the accompaniment of the blazing Yale-log, the steaming plum pudding, and the heated wassail bowl. Instead of families gathering around the chimney-corner with the house doors closed and a large crackling fire in every room, the majority of the people of Adelaide seem to turn out on Christmas Eve to see the  street decorations to purchase presents on behalf of the good Santa Claus, and to prepare for the outdoor recrcation or the religious services of the morrow. Whatever Australians do in regard to holiday-making they always do heartily and well. There is no wonder, therefore, that Christmas time is ever with us a time of general rejoicing Old Father Christmas may not come to us in the same garb as he does to the dwellers in England,where fancy always invests him with holly branches and mistletoe, and sees him surrounded by flakes of falling snow. When we know that we shall be introduced to him under a blazing sun, or with the thermometer registering 90° or 100° in the shade, we prepare to meet him at picnics, excursions by land or by sea, in garden parties, or in other outdoor scenes of recreation and reunion. But Christmas is none tho less welcome because he comes unattended by fogs and snow and frost. The Christmas spirit is tho tame, and will be so long as the day is honoured,and as the human heart is mored by joys and sorrows. Throughout this colony as through out the rest of the Christian world Christmas Day is probably the gladdest day of the year. It is the day when men felt it a duty to be happy,and when that spirit which blesses him. That gives end him that receives is most largely exercised. The general rejoicing over flows in all directions, and for one day at least in the year the inmates of our hospitals, asylums, and prisons are made to feel that they are not entirely forgotten by the great world outside. On Christmas Eve and morning rarely do no carol singers parade the streets to bid'
“Christians awake, salute the happy morn.'
 No 'waits' go from door to door, arousing sleepers, and informing them the time by the clock and the kind of weather at the time. But instead of this on Christmas Eve the Town Hall bells ring out a merry peal to welcome merry Christmas in, and all night long the main thoroughfares are crowded by men,women, and children, who promenade the streets hour after hour gazing upon one another,making purchases, or seeking to catch the inspiration of the time. All vehicle traffic was stopped from east to west in the  western half of Rundle-street on Friday evening last, the tramcars being of coarse allowed to go out to the eastern suburbs, and to return via Grenfell-street as usual. The street decorations were as profuse as we have ever known them before, branches of pines, of gums, and of other trees being need wherever possible, either on shop fronts or on verandah-posts. Any one looking down one of the main streets and seeing the abundant foliage might have been pardoned for adopting Macbeth's idea, if not his precise language, and asking what woods had come- there and wherefore had the; come. The ornamentation of individual shops was not as conspicuously excellent or as striking as we have seen some on previous occasions, bat a few of the grocers,butchers, fruiterers, and poulterers made good displays. The fruit shops were especially gay with the luscious-looking fruit offered for sale,and here, and in toy shops and drapers' establishments, there were crowds of people gathered all Friday evening. Two of the hotels—the York and the Imperial— had gas illuminations in front of their premises, and Chinese lanterns and many lesser lights were to be seen at intervals all along Rundle and Hindley streets. The effect was very pretty, and the pedestrians seemed as if they would never tire of promenading or of watching the Lightning Calculator and other wonder-workers who engaged the attention of large crowds of people in side streets and alleys off the main thorough fares. To the eyes of a visitor from the old country the decorations of the streets would create great surprise. Scarcely any holly is used, and the mistletoe is rarely seen. Instead of these things,branches of eucalypti and other indigenous trees are used, and what the decorations lack in minuteness of detail and artistic finish they certainly make up in quantity. Cherries supply the place of holly berries and the rose takes the  place of the mistletoe— for, as the Rev. Charles Clark used to say, Australian young ladies do not object to being kissed ' under the rose 'instead of beneath tho mistletoe. The decorations are by no means confined to the  main streets. If every house does not show its sprig of holly, every horse carries its bit of foliage,and every vehicle, from the tramcars to the perambulator, is more or less adorned by leaves,or sprigs, or branches of trees. Christmas Day is always observed as a dose holiday in Adelaide. No ordinary business is transacted, except, perhaps, by the owners of vehicles and the occupiers of public-houses. The publication of the daily newspapers even is suspended, either on Christmas or the following day, and for twenty-four hours the news goes by word-of-mouth, as it did in tbe days before Dick Steele started his ' Tatler' and Addison began to show the follies of the society of his day. Bat Christmas Day is by no means generally observed as a day for religions worship. There are services at a few of the churches perhaps, and the South Australian Sunday-school Union assembles its children in the Town Hall for the usual Christmas morning service of song. But this begins at 9 o'clock,and is over in an hour, so that it shall not unduly interfere with the full enjoyment of a day of recreation. Mr. Chief-Justice Way presided at the Sunday-school gathering in the Town Hall this year, and the Rev. W. K. Fletcher,ALA., delivered the address to the children. Special hymns were sung as usual, each having some relation to the Natal Day of Him who was born in Bethlehem. In the evening a grand mass, composed by Mons. Meilhan, was performed in the Town Hail, in the presence of a large audience. The places of public amusement were closed on Christmas Day, but on the previous night a new pantomime was produced at the Theatre Royal,while at the Academy of Music there were some special attractions in honour of the season. On Christmas Day, notwithstanding the intense heat, tens of thousands of people left the city either by the railways to the Bay and the Semaphore, or to some of the shady nooks and glens among our ever-new and ever-beautiful Mount Lofty hills.

SA Christmas card - notice the  "West End" wheels :)

Merry Christmas Everyone!

© 2013 Allen Tiller

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