A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year by Kenny Meadows. The Illustrated London News (December 20, 1845): 303.

By Christmas 1845 the periodical's seasonal illustrations emphasize communal joy — and alcohol consumption. Instead of a modest glass of sherry or port set at the elbow of an elderly family member in "A Christmas 'At Home'," Kenny Meadows' "A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year" and William Harvey's "Bringing in Christmas" (engraved by G. Dalziel) foreground the consumption of alcoholic beverages. In the former, a hearty, bearded man wreathed in holly (presumably a forerunner of Father Christmas, but with a decidedly adult appeal) gestures with his open right hand, inviting the viewer to imbibefrom the open flagon in his left hand, there being eight glasses and three dark bottles in front of a salver and tray (the engraver, W. J. Linton, has signed his work prominently here): clearly the beverage takes precedence over seasonal foods.

In the full-page illustration "Bringing in Christmas," the artist reinforces one's accessing the joys of the season through alcohol consumption as young Christmas, barely an adolescent but already inebriated, is about to assume his throne, centre. Three putti carry in an enormous wassail bowl filled with punch, and a yule log blazes in the foreground, as half-a-dozen youths carry in the youthful male figure whose head is swathed in holly as he waves a drinking cup. Evergreens dangle in profusion from the ceiling, while outside falling snow obscures the moon. The clothing in Harvey's yuletide scene suggests a bygone period, probably the middle ages, rather than Victorian England. The only discordant element is the old man who grips the throne and points downward. Neither scene even hints, however, at the privation that still haunted the streets of England's larger towns and cities in the mid-eighteen forties. Rather, the illustration for the song "An English Christmas Home" (28 December 1845) emphasises traditional good cheer — the gigantic pudding, bottles, decanters, and a punch bowl surrounded by seasonal greenery — amidst a wintry village scene in which villagers (left) attach lines to a yule log.

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham from a copy in the Robarts Library, University of Toronto. Formatting and image correction by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Last modified 7 July 2011