Christmas Art And Science (1879) Pt 2: Christmas Cosaques (Crackers)

(see also –  Christmas Art And Science (1879) Pt 1: Kaleidoscopes, puzzles, stereoscopes & occult novelties)


Part 2

Another and almost equally novel feature of modern Christmas observance in the shape of what may fairly be termed the cosaque invasion.

“A soldier,” the old story tells us,” loved a Cosaquo maid ;” but what that cosaque was made of, the authorities unfortunately do not inform us. I am sure I cannot tell you what cosaques are made of, or rather, to speak correctly, I should be sorely puzzled to tell you anything of which they may not apparently be made.

I believe the latest novelties suggested in the way of valentines, before the craze for that remarkable social phenomenon began somewhat to die out, were a ton of coal and a pair of sixtcen-shilling trousers. The cosaquo mania has not quite arrived at that stage of development; but it is on the highway to it.

Here, for instance, are a dozen boxes sent mo by Messrs. Mead and Co., the first of which has a startling picture representing a young lady, in acrobatic attire, springing in a blaze of fire from a gigantic cracker. It is not without some trepidation that I consent to an experimental pull being given to one of the shiny blue, red, green, and yellow confections, with their white lace edges and their gay little adornments of bouquets, and cupids, and angels, and goodness knows what beside. Lady acrobats are admirable institutions in their way, no doubt, but the drawing-room is hardly their sphere, and if however, long before the question has any chance of being thoroughly argued out, Miss Cis and Miss Edith have decided it for themselves, with the result that the shiny red, blue, and yellow crackers contain, not actual lady acrobats themselves, but a neat little selection from the various articles of ordinary feminine attire, which they have laid aside.

Why the Red, White, and Blue box, the contents of which are ornamented with little chariots and horses, Median and Persian, Greek and Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian, and so forth, should be presided over by H.M. the British Lion, robed and crowned, and leaning upon his sceptre in an evidently confirmed attack of chronic rheumatism and acute inflammation of the temper, is a question I can no more undertake to solve than I can that of why Mr. J. Bull, whom in the next pictorial label Britannia, with a flag-bearer and half-a-score juvenile Britannias in her train, is welcoming with outstretched arms, on his return from the fatigues and dangers of a visit to the Paris Exhibition, should have deliberately sacrificed all his luggage in order to carry ashore under each arm a gigantic cosaque about the size of Britannia herself. Here he is, however, crackers and all.

And here too are Comical Dogs, keeping guard over a monster dozen tastefully decorated in quiet greys and browns, relieved by gleaming golden fringe, and adorned with capital figures of storks, and cranes, and pelicans, and flamingoes, and various other long-legged long-billed fowl known and unknown. And the Lady’s Trunk, with its gorgeous contents, glittering with gold, gay with colour, fairylike with transparent glycerine, quaint with brightly coloured figures in correctest Chinese costume. And last, not least, the Forget-me-Not, most tasteful collection of all, with its bouquet on the white watered box, and its rows of green and purple crackers, each ornamented with its beautifully finished spray of violets orforgetme-nots, roses or lilies-of-the-valley.

For the contents of all this battery of crackers, Messrs. Mead appear to have confined themselves in the present instance almost entirely to varieties of eccentric costume, dominoes, Japaneso headdresses, and the like, artfully constructed in tissue-paper. Not very dnrable wear, perhaps, and suggestive on the whole rather of a transthan a cis-equatorial climate at this preciso season of the year. But admirable vehicles, no doubt, for fun and flirting—as indeed what is not, while one is happily still at the age for it.

Messrs. Tom Smith and Co., on the other hand, go in for internal as well as external variety. The dozen bright blue crackers, indeed, which form the contents of their Golden Dish, contain only a variety of “novel headdresses of mediroval design;” as also do those which, in the next packet that comes to hand, the kneeling slave is humbly offering—”from Tom Smith”—to a Cleopatra, whose somewhat transparent drapery will at all events be in keeping with them.

But when I take up the next box of Puzzles, thevenerable features of the inscrutable propounder of riddles on whose lid seem somehow strangely familiar to me, tho! first pink cracker on which Cis and Edith lay their irreverent young paws presents” them, not with a fire-balloony garment, but with a pen-and-ink map of Europe.

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