The Little Match Girl

 The Little Match Girl

Shivering with cold and hunger she crept along, a picture of misery, poor little girl! The snowflakes covered her long fair hair, which fell in pretty curls over her neck; but she did not think of that now. In all the windows lights were shining, and there was a glorious smell of roast goose, for it was New Year’s Eve. Yes, she thought of that!

Regularly – incorrectly – referred to as a Christmas story set on Christmas night, Hans Christian Andersen’s tragic tale, The Little Match Girl, actually takes place on New Year’s Eve.

It’s easy enough to see why people make the mistake, as a Christmas tree is mentioned, amongst other things. However, you have to remember that in the past people weren’t ripping their decorations down on Boxing Day!

 The Little Match Girl tree

She lit a new match. Then she was sitting under a beautiful Christmas tree, with thousands of candles burning upon the green branches.

The Little Match Girl was first published in 1845 and tells the story of a poor girl who tries to make money by selling matches. However, in the morning she is discovered in the street, dead.

Andersen was my favourite storyteller back when I was a child. There was something about his tragic, decidedly non-Disney endings that spoke to me. I’ll never forgive Disney for ruining The Little Mermaid!

Here is what trusty Wikipedia had to say about the plot of the book:

On a cold New Year’s Eve, a poor girl tries to sell matches in the street. She is freezing badly, but she is afraid to go home because her stepfather will beat her for not selling any matches. She takes shelter in a nook and lights the matches to warm herself.


In their glow, she sees several lovely visions including a Christmas tree and a holiday feast. The girl looks skyward and sees a shooting star, then she remembers her dead grandmother saying that such a falling star means someone has died and is going to Heaven. As she lights the next match, she sees a vision of her grandmother, the only person to have treated her with love and kindness. She strikes one match after another to keep the vision of her grandmother alive for as long as she can.


Running out of matches, the child dies and her grandmother carries her soul to Heaven. The next morning, passers-by find the child dead in the nook and take pity on her. They do not know about the visions she saw, or that she will not be cold or hungry any more in Heaven.

The Second Great Fire of London

I’m going to be honest and admit I’d forgotten all about “The Second Great Fire of London” until I was randomly Googling images of London a few weeks ago and came across this photo of St Paul’s Cathedral. It is one of the iconic photographs of London, titled, St Paul’s Survives.

 The Blitz London 29th December 1940

I briefly lived and worked in a building that was rebuilt immediately after The Great Fire of London, and I always associate the words “Great Fire” with 1666. Of course, this was a very different kind of fire, an act of war, and it took place some 274 years later.

 Detail of the Great Fire of London by an unknown painter.

The Second Great Fire took place from the 29th to the 30th of December, 1940, when London came under heavy fire from Germany. Over 24,000 high explosive bombs and 100,000 incendiary bombs were dropped.


Ironically, the Germans used the picture in their own publications, as proof the bombing was working. How strange that a photograph can be used for two such different purposes.

 The cover of Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, which published this image in their January 1941 issue as proof that their bombing campaign was working.

The bombing left hundreds dead and injured and destroyed many of London’s famous buildings. Every time I think of World War Two, all I can think is: What a waste. What did it achieve?

Boxing Day

Boxing Day 1901


Well, Christmas is finished and it’s Boxing Day here in Australia. I know many Americans aren’t familiar with the term, but throughout many countries of the British Commonwealth, Boxing Day is the day that follows Christmas. In recent times it has evolved into the day of the year all the shops have their big sales (much like America’s Black Friday).

The origins of the holiday are unclear, but in the past, the 26th of December was traditionally the day servants and other workers would be given ‘a Christmas box’ from their employers. The tradition goes back hundreds and hundreds of years.

Antique Santa Claus Telephone Call, 1897.

Santa Claus was all caught up with modern technology at the end of the nineteenth century! The caption for the picture reads:

Photo of Santa Claus telephoning for more supplies, 1897.

By the time this photograph was taken, telephones weren’t entirely new or alien to many people in the world. The telephone was patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, but there’s a great deal of dispute over who should be given credit for its invention. No matter what, by 1897 the telephone wouldn’t have been any more impressive to a late Victorian era child than the internet is to a child of today!

You can buy copies of this photograph HERE.


The First Film Adaptation of A Christmas Carol (1901)

Australia might be able to claim the first feature film (1906), but here’s something from 1901!

Interesting Literature

As an appendix to our previous post on the interesting history of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, here is a link to a Youtube video containing the first known film adaptation of Dickens’s classic story. Directed by Walter R. Booth, the British-produced film was only a short piece, and the only surviving footage we have is incomplete. The film’s title was Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost. Until the 2011 discovery (or rather rediscovery) of a short film from 1900/1 called The Death of Poor Joe (based on the death of the crossing sweeper in Bleak House), this was the oldest known film adaptation of Dickens’s work.

Since the film was made in 1901, it is, of course, a silent film. As a result, a number of intertitles (pieces of filmed printed text edited into the midst of the photographed action of the film) had to be utilised. This was…

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A 1930s Australian Christmas

Christmas in Australia 1938

Enmore Theatre lorry – free Christmas cake to each child, Sat. matinee 24 Dec 1938 / by Sam Hood

Christmas takes on an entirely different meaning when it happens in the middle of summer. However, it’s only in recent years that Australians have started to move away from the classic heavy, wintry British Christmas fare. Pre Second World War, 1930s Australia was (and still is for many) all about the pudding and the roast and the Christmas cake, as illustrated in the picture above.