With Christmas a mere few days away, it feels an appropriate time to spread some festive cheer. Helping me to accomplish this are the numerous Christmas editions of American journal, The Northwestern Miller, held here at the Archive. Through their festive adverts, stories, and poems, this blog will endeavour to display Christmas past, present and future.
Firstly, Christmas past, the easiest as all the editions come from the past! Particularly interesting though, are the portrayals of Christmas past in publications produced during the Second World War. Rather than a time of especial merriment, the tone was muted and more serious. For example, Pillsbury’s Christmas Greeting from 1942:
‘Perhaps “Merry” isn’t exactly the right word for Christmas in this year of war. But the world needs Christmas now as never before – needs its hope and its promise, its cheering and inspiring evidence that there is still such a thing as good will among men.
And so, if we can’t wish you the usual “Merry” Christmas, we do wish you most sincerely a good and heart-warming and hopeful Christmas!’
America was facing the one year anniversary of Pearl Harbour, the same month they had to try and celebrate Christmas. In that context it is understandable why Pillsbury’s felt unable to wish a ‘Merry’ Christmas.
Two years later, however, Pillsbury’s would yet again be sending out a Christmas wish in the midst of war, but this time there was a greater hint of optimism:
‘Though the guns still roar…all of us know now…that no combination of barbaric powers…is strong enough to batter down the true spirit of Christmas…In that knowledge…Pillsbury wishes you and yours a Christmas…brightened by the vision of the better world on the way…’
A hopeful future then, one we appreciate more with the knowledge that the war would end the following year. The preservation of these editions from the past allow us to cherish the present more.
So up to Christmas present. Despite being printed in the past, many parts of The Northwestern Miller’s Christmas editions can still be appreciated today, and reveal that human character has not actually changed that much. Take the Christmas Carols that were bought up to date in 1927, for example, still a good reflection of Christmas present today:
“Holy night, silent night,
All is calm, all is bright.”
Another year, you may believe,
I’ll shop before it’s Christmas Eve.
“God rest you merry, gentlemen;
Let nothing you dismay.”
The bills for these your Christmas gifts,
Come one week from today.
Ninety years on, both carols are still well known in households today, whilst the shops will still be filled with last-minute Christmas shoppers on Christmas Eve, wincing slightly when the credit card bill then arrives…
So the Christmas future. Alas, The Northwestern Miller is no longer in publication so we cannot look forward to new editions being published. So what will the future year hold for the Mills Archive if collecting new Northwestern Miller journals is not an option? Well, no one can know for certain but there will surely be new blogs to write, new items to be catalogued and new projects to be started.
Now nothing is left but to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and, borrowing a line from the Rosenbaum Grain Co. of Chicago, say: ‘May the turkey never grow less nor the cranberry sauce lose its radiant red.’