The Australian Women’s Weekly combined Santa Claus with an absent military father figure in 1942. Image via Trove.
This Christmas Richard Wood, USA Programs Manager, turns back time to 1942 when the festive season in Australia and the USA faced austerity measures and missing family members during World War II but the spirit of the season persevered.
By Christmas 1942, the war had infiltrated every aspect of Australian life. The Christmas cover of the Australian Women’s Weekly featured combined Santa Claus with an absent military father figure.
Henry Bowers’ handmade Christmas tree, Cape Evans 1911. Courtesy of the Scott Polar Research Institute.
As the year crawls to its inevitable end and we turn our thoughts to Christmas, it is important to keep things in perspective as the trials of the season also begin to appear. Usually, these occur doing the early stages of Christmas travel. The trips we so eagerly planned mid-year start becoming a reality as we hit the waterways, roads and airways for the ‘break’ we have been anticipating. Somehow in our planning, we conveniently forget the crowded Pacific Highway or the moorings that are hard to secure in our favourite ‘secret’ bay. The airport queues seem longer this year and we are again surprised that so many other people seem to have had the same idea as us. No matter what tales of Christmas travel woe you’ve endured this season, rest assured, someone has had it worse than you. In fact in 1911 a journey was undertaken that became known as ‘The Worst Journey in the World’.
Not quite at the water’s edge, yet. This 1865 depiction of colonists at Manly celebrating Christmas appeared in The Illustrated Sydney News. Image: ANMM collection 00006061.
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.
Christmas Greetings from the Ship’s company to the Captain and Officers and vice versa HMS INCONSTANT. The hope of a ‘conquering New Year” was the hope of the day.
Patriotic Christmas cheer from HMAS Australia, 1915-1918. ANMM Collection.
A handmade decoration by Magda Mihkelson who immigrated to Australia aboard Toscana in 1948. ANMM Collection.
Hand painted Christmas card sent to Douglas Fraser of the 1st RANBT which by this time had served in Gallipoli and were now at El Arish in Turkey. ANMM Collection
A small Christmas token that spoke of home to solo sailor Kay Cottee aboard First Lady. ANMM Collection.
Golden Christmas splendour aboard SS Taipang, 1939. ANMM Collection.
“And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.”
– ‘Christmas At Sea’, Robert Louis Stevenson, c.1888
Whether by choice or by obligation, spending the festive season on the water is part of many people’s lives. From early journeys when Christmas was celebrated by a devout few, to modern times when Christmas is widely celebrated in so many different ways, thinking of the shores of home seems part of every Christmas spent at sea. Continue reading →
‘The Sydney Mail’ Wednesday 13 December 1916, Christmas Number, War Issue. ANMM Collection 00040698
A woman watches her two young children, as they play in the sand at a beach, happily enjoying the Australian sunshine and thought that Christmas is near. A familiar image you might say? On 13 December 1916, The Sydney Mail published an illustration depicting this scenario in the ‘Christmas Number’, with one crucial difference… Continue reading →