Monday, 31 December 2012

Fairground swag.

Fairground 'swag' is the name given to the prizes handed out from the round stalls and shooting galleries at a fair. Most are prizes are for a game of skill such as hooking a duck, hoopla, darts and throwing balls. Years ago the prizes were gaudy cups and saucers, small china ornaments
(china-fairings) and plaster figures and animals such as the alsation. From 1910 to 1940 a lot of these figures  in chalkware could be found on the fairs, now rather kitcsh and popular with the vintage look. The victorian prize of a coconut was highly thought of, again because of it was not readily available and was expensive .  Click to link -  I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts !  To own a goldfish in the late victorian era was a sign of status and extremely fashionable so also attracted the punters. The first public aquarium opened in Londons Hyde park in 1853 and along with the ending of the hundred year tax on glass led to the ability for more people to own their own aquariums. 
These days the prizes still follow the fads and fashions of the time, such as favourite cartoon characters, spongebob square pants, Hello Kitty and smurfs. I was suprised this year to also see prizes of packets of cigarettes and small bottles of alcohall, all looking rather incongurous alongside Winnie the pooh and pink fluffy teddies!

Hook a duck


 It was Billy Butlin in the 1920's that made the goldfish in a bag really popular. There are a lot of people against the giving of goldfish as a prize because of so many not being looked after. This stall had bowls ,food and information to help them stay alive. One fairground goldfish called Tish, won on a roll-a-penny lived for 43 years even though it tried to jump out of its bowl when he was 19 years old after the death of his old companion fish called Tosh. I didn't realise that a goldfish should live at least 15 to 20 years and if it dies before then there must be something wrong with the water !

Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas and the Fly agaric Mushroom

Image result for fly agaric old illustrations

I recently came across this seasonal story. A lot of the Father Christmas stories, flying reindeer, red suit, coming down chimneys etc appear to come from the Koryaks or Kamchadales of Siberia, near the North Pole. A Koryak shaman would use hallucinogenic mushrooms, fly agaric on the night of the winter soltice. He used his 'spiritual ' journey to fly to the tree of life, a large pine tree which lived by the north star. There he would try to answer the villages problems.

The shaman would dress in an outfit of red with white spots or trim and would go out in the snow with a sack to collect the dried mushrooms. If his gur (yurt as we call them) was blocked by snow he would climb to the top and slide down the central pole through the chimney hole. He would give his guests that were gathered in the yurt mushrooms . Did you know that the traditional symbol for victorian chimney sweeps was a fly agaric mushroom.
 The flyagaric also gave the shaman a burst of superhuman maybe the reindeer would prance around much higher than normal. Perhaps the reindeer and the shaman all thought they were flying !
Image result for xmas reindeer old illustrations

It was probably the druids who originally brought the story to England. The English settlers took it to the New World with the influence of the Turkish St. Nicholas from the Dutch colonialists.
The early Santa wore red but was small and elf like. It was in the 1930s that  the artist Haddon Sundblom created the Father Christmas that we know and love for the Coca cola campaigns.
Merry Christmas !


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