Chairman Neil Ramshaw welcomed a good attendance to the first Open Meeting of the season including eight lady guests who we were particularly pleased to see. In addition it was good to introduce Peter Wood as a new member to the Forum’s numbers. Eight apologies had been offered prior to the meeting.

A reminder of the Christmas lunch on December 15th was given with menu’s and payments to John Taylor by December 1st.

Today’s Speaker making her debut at our Forum was Mrs Jenny Stacey , a Speaker-Finder for U3a and member of Otley Ladies Forum, whose seasonally appropriate topic was ” Noel Nostalgia”. This proved to be an entertaining and informative look at Victorian Christmases’ from 1840’s onwards,  a time of great social change. Much of the impetus to Christmas innovations and changes was provided by the Royal couple Victoria and Albert who with nine children wanted to add some sparkle to that time of year. The Victorian festive season started at Advent (4 Sundays before Christmas) and Jenny shared with us the tradition of “Stir Up Sunday” on the fifth Sunday before Christmas and relating to the Christmas pudding. We also learnt about the influence of Charles Dickens on Christmas from his articles and books; the activities of Christmas Eve including collecting greenery from outside to decorate the house and the tradition of the Yule Log.

The introduction of Christmas trees attributed to Prince Albert was mentioned who significantly saw their introduction from outside to an indoor tree and the homemade decorations of wood, glass, candles and a fairy atop used to decorate. The significance and background to holly and poinsettia’s at Christmas was covered and a charming tale of how the robin got its red breast was shared with the audience. The origin of Christmas cards was discussed, their initial high expense and perhaps more surprisingly the fact that no Christian images were used on early ones. Jenny shared the secret of the contents of Victorian stockings, homemade presents  and touched upon other Christmas activities such as parlour games and pantomimes which grew quickly in popularity. The talk was supported by some evocative slides from the period and we finished imbued with much new knowledge of the background and traditions of the Festive season and a number of questions demonstrated the interest aroused.

The Vote of Thanks was given by Michael Cochrane on behalf of the forty-one attendees and guests.



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