As we look forward to Christmas celebrations this year, it’s maybe worth looking back on previous years’ celebrations. For no other reason than it allows me to make a bad pun in the title, I thought I’d look at what the local newspapers were saying back in 1899.
It’s commonplace nowadays for there to be a focus on troops stationed out of the country around Christmas. This is not a new phenomenon. Back in 1899 the Rugby Advertiser1 remembered the troops stationed abroad during the Boer War. “All our troops stationed at Chieveley and Frere camps send hearty good wishes for a Merry Christmas to all at home” it said, before reporting that “there has been no firing, and we are giving the Boers a holiday here today.” I’m sure they were delighted(!) Apparently “Christmas Day passed off right merrily here. There was music, there were songs, there was mirth in all the camps, and the fun was kept up till ten o’clock at night.”
An upbeat message then, but not one mirrored by the Leamington Courier2 who bemoaned the “magnitude” of the war. The Imperial confidence of the nation had been shaken, if accepting this report, which regretted that “it was confidently expected that as soon as it was found that England would not be trifled with, the Boer would give way.” This had not happened, and it was a hopeful rather than expectant wish that the war would soon end. It was not, of course, until May 1902 that the war finally concluded.
In a slightly more bathetic response, the paper also reported how “there will be no ice this Christmas. Great will be the disappointment in consequence.” The report then repeats myths that the weather on the 25th was supposed to influence that of the coming year. Their long term forecast for 1900 predicted “great extremities of heat and cold” with September in particular standing out, being predicted to be “tropical.” Was it?
The church played a large part in celebrations. New Bilton’s church had some spectacular decorations which augmented the traditional fare on offer.3
The Rugby Advertiser also reported on the customary extension of one hour to pubs’ opening that was issued on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Eve. Representatives of the Rugby Free Church Council opposed this extension. They urged that the magistrates should not “grant such extensions in the future. The Chairman intimated that the Bench would accept the petition.” Were they successful?
Checking the Rugby Advertiser would bring up plenty of Rugby games, of course! The Rugby Club beat the Rev. WLW Kitching’s XV on Boxing Day, scoring three tries to nil in the process. Rugby Star hosted Penlee at the Star Ground on Christmas Day only to lose, before travelling to New Bilton’s Lawford Road ground on Boxing Day… to lose once again. There’s often talk of modern sporting heroes’ arduous holiday schedule… but it’s limited according to these schedules, all done in the name of fun!
So, 1899 saw some varied items of note… what will this year bring?
3 Rugby Advertiser 30/12/1899