Saturday, November 24, 2012

Common Features of a Victorian Christmas

Pop Goes the Weasel is a very pretty contra dance that became wildly popular in the early 1850s. No one seems to know when the tune was written, but it went from unknown to being whistled on every street corner in 1853. No dance master stepped forward to claim credit for the dance, but everyone was having fun dancing it. Once the original craze died down, the dance was still done, especially at Christmastime.

certainly we were gratified to observe that, at the Wolvesey Training School Meeting at Winchester, Lord Ashburton had announced that prizes would be awarded for a knowledge of common things. Without the intention of competing for these prizes, we may remark that colds and chilblains are common things at the present time: though headaches and bilious disorders, from overindulgence in plum pudding and the other delicacies of the season, are much more common. 

Other affections, of a more sentimental nature, contracted in consequence of polking, waltzing, and Schottische dancing, are likewise common: and Pop Goes the Weasel has become so common as to be a bore. Holly and mistletoe are common—the latter giving occasion to a ceremony both common and—just now—proper. Christmas-boxes are common to postmen, or ought to be, considering how wretchedly that deserving class of men is paid.

 This festive period is not the time for considering whether, amongst common things, the House of Commons ought or not to be included, together with the Common Pleas, the Common Council, and the Common Serjeant, legal or military, as also Doctors' Commons, amongst the various institutions which were—originally at least—intended for the good of the community. 

We will only express our conviction that it is very desirable to promote a knowledge of common things; for the knowledge of common things is less general than the knowledge of common places; however, although we may be saying what has been often said before, we wish the reader a happy new year.
(Punch, vol. 26, 1854)

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