Christmas at Blandings

by Victoria Madden

A festive article from the Girl’s Own Annual describing decorations for a Christmas Tree in the interwar period of the classic Wodehouse novels. I like to think it was penned by Lady Constance in a graciously benign mood as she deplores modern trends and suggests something far more suitable.

I am not sure at what point today’s angel replaced Father Christmas as the topmost decoration for the tree and the mention of ‘gollywogs’ as decorations will strike modern readers as somewhat bizarre. As late as the Seventies these were still common toys in England, and not thought of at all as anything else but, so I suppose you have to take the idea of such decoration as era specific and try to banish any Strange Fruit resonances from our more enlightened age.

Transcribed by myself; copyright The Lutterworth Press.

On Dressing the Christmas Tree

Very modern in style are some of the up-to-date ornaments for trimming the Christmas tree. Yet jazzy papers and futuristic decorations that bespeak the latest eccentricity are offered us without arousing any answering thrill of enthusiasm, for in our innermost being we feel that in connection with this time-honoured festival, it is the traditional embellishments that seem most fitting; and if we introduce the freakish and fantastic, we shall but lose some of that fine savour that years of sentiment have built up around the Yuletide emblem.

Getting the Snow Effect

So let us decorate our tree on those same simple lines that enchanted us when we, too, were in pigtails, and wore our skirts as short as the grown-ups of today. Let us have a well-frosted tree that shall gleam and glitter as the lights shine upon it, giving to Father Christmas a-top the right snowy setting. A thin glue, lightly brushed over the leaves and then sprinkled with mica, will give the sparkle, or branches separately dipped into a strong solution of alum and afterwards tied to the tree, will provide the snow-laden touch.

A bottle of gold paint is an invaluable asset when the decoration of the tree is afoot. Far prettier than the bought ornaments of tinsel are fir cones and walnuts, gaily painted and hung to the branches among festooned ribbon of that coloured paper which high-spirited youngsters fling into the air on carnival occasions. A couple of tints, such as scarlet and green, orange and blue are to be preferred to a mixture of several. If the small candles and the fancy paper in which the presents are wrapped are chosen in the same tones, so much the prettier will be the effect of the tree.

Although legend connects Father Christmas with a bevy of elves and gnomes who him in his generous enterprises, these small people are as a rule woefully neglected in the Yuletide decorations. Far more appropriate to a Christmas tree than dolls or gollywogs would be a number of small figures dressed in the traditional garb of brown with hoods and wide collars of cheery red. To dress them in this guise necessitates less labour than that of fashioning doll’s garments, whilst the multiplication of the little toys add to the character of the tree’s decorations. Oranges and rosy apples suspended by ribbons will fill up bare spaces in truly festive fashion.

 The Girl’s Own Annual 1922