The twelve library days of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my library gave to me:

The daily paper
Loads of Bookbug sessions
Jazz music streaming
Digital drop-ins
A place for study
Online image archives
A funding website
Free ebooks!
Homework help
and a really handy library app!



Dickens and the Victorian Christmas

Central Library has a new display entitled ‘Dickens and the Victorian Christmas’. Here’s a taster of the exhibition which you can visit until the end of December.

It’s hard to imagine, but at the beginning of the 19th century, Christmas was hardly celebrated. Many shops and businesses did not even consider it a holiday.

It was Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who popularised most of the aspects of Christmas we recognise today. In 1848, The Illustrated London News published a drawing of the royal family celebrating round a decorated Christmas tree, a tradition carried on from Prince Albert’s childhood in Germany. Soon, many homes in Britain had a tree bedecked with candles, homemade decorations and small gifts.

A very merry Christmas, c1900

The first Christmas card appeared in 1843 with an illustration showing a group of people round a dinner table and a Christmas message. By the 1880s sending Christmas cards had become hugely popular. 11.5 million cards were produced in 1880 alone!

Crackers first appeared in 1848 when a British confectioner, Tom Smith, invented a bold new way to sell sweets. Inspired by a trip to Paris where he saw bon bons – sugar almonds wrapped in twists of paper – Smith created a simple package filled with sweets that snapped when pulled apart. The sweets were replaced by small gifts and paper hats in the late Victorian period.

Christmas for the Victorians was a festival for the family and a time to gather in the best room in the house and play parlour games. Some, such as Blind man’s Buff, Charades and Twenty Questions, are still played today.

The Young Folks by Randolph Caldecott

The custom of decking the walls and windows with sprigs and twigs took on a more elaborate affair with homemade paper decorations and colourful paper chains appearing in homes.

While Charles Dickens did not invent the Victorian Christmas, his book ‘A Christmas Carol’ is credited with helping to popularise the traditions of the festival. Its themes of family, charity, goodwill, and happiness encapsulate the spirit of the Victorian Christmas and remain central to the Christmas we celebrate.

Between 1843 and 1848, Dickens published five Christmas novellas, one of which was to become one of the most oft filmed, staged, read, sung, repeated, copied, adapted Christmas stories. A Christmas Carol’ was written in October to November and published in December of 1843. By January of 1844 it was on its third edition. In February, the first theatrical production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ took place with a further eight productions appearing in quick succession. In the years that followed Dickens published ‘The Chimes’ in 1844, ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’ in 1845, ‘The Battle of Life’ in 1846 and after a break of a year which he is said to have regretted, ‘The Haunted Man and the Ghost Bargain’ in 1848.

As well as being a prodigious talent, Dickens was a canny businessman and for all the later Christmas novellas, the theatrical production opened on the same day as the book publication.

Dickens was the owner and editor of two literary magazines, ‘Household Words’ and then ‘All the Year Round’, where serialisations of his stories appeared along with contributions by other writers such as Elizabeth Gaskell and Wilkie Collins. In both magazines, Dickens regularly wrote Christmas stories and special Christmas issues were produced.

There are many Christmas tales in the Library by Dickens and others, why not borrow one today?


With thanks to our colleagues in Museums and Galleries Edinburgh and Information and Learning Resources for lending us the many curios included in the display.


Christmas and New Year opening hours

Libraries’ opening hours over the festive period:

Saturday 23 December – normal hours
Monday 25 December – closed
Tuesday 26 December – closed
Wednesday 27 December – normal hours
Thursday 28 December – normal hours
Friday 29 December – normal hours
Saturday 30 December – normal hours
Monday 1 January – closed
Tuesday 2 January – closed
Wednesday 3 January onwards – normal hours

Don’t forget, you can download free ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and newspapers from Your Library throughout the holidays.

With very best wishes for the season from Edinburgh Libraries.


The news of Christmas past

We’re still in the Christmas mood and have been flicking through the pages of the British Newspaper Archive, delving into Christmases past.

1918’s panto at the King’s Theatre was Jack and The Beanstalk… Oh yes it was!

Jack and The Beanstalk- 1918

5th January 1918

In 1900 there was a “Great Christmas and New Year Carnival” in the Waverley Market, which had been turned into “a veritable Fairyland” and not a big wheel or German Market in sight!


25th December 1924

In 1920 the coolest Christmas gift was a gramophone… forward 96 years, and once again it’s appearing on Santa’s list.


24th December 1920

With Christmas Day only becoming a public holiday in Scotland in 1958, most workers were lucky to get a half days holiday to celebrate….


22nd December 1924

All these ads were taken from the Edinburgh Evening News, but there are over 14 million digitised pages from more than 700 UK and Irish newspapers available on the British Newspaper Archive. You can browse for FREE in Central Library’s Edinburgh & Scottish Collection and Reference Library.

So do come and have a look yourself and use the Libraries computers to explore thousands of newspapers from 1710-1954 for FREE.


Christmas and New Year opening hours

Here are our Libraries’ opening hours over Christmas and New Year:

Saturday 24 December – opening hours as normal
Monday 26 December – closed
Tuesday 27 December – closed
Wednesday 28 December – opening hours as normal
Thursday 29 December – opening hours as normal
Friday 30 December – opening hours as normal
Saturday 31 December – opening hours as normal
Monday 2 January – closed
Tuesday 3 January – closed
Wednesday 4 January onwards – opening hours as normal

For more detailed information visit your local library’s web page and remember, Your Library is always open online.

You can download free ebooks, audiobooks and magazines from Your Library throughout the holidays and keep up with the latest news with free access to Library PressDisplay.


26 Children’s Winters goes online!

Our friends in Edinburgh Museums and Galleries have added a gorgeous exhibition of childhood memories of winter to Capital Collections.

26 Children’s Winters is an exciting exhibition which captures the intangible memories of childhood – tingling cold hands, rainy day boredom, the excitement of opening presents, the whizz and bang of fireworks – through objects from the Museum of Childhood’s collection, and writings inspired by them by the ‘26’ group of writers.

We gather - Board Games

‘…five I really need a five come on roll!’, from the accompanying sestude by Mandy Lee

For the full evocative experience, you can see the chosen objects alongside the writings on display at the Museum of Childhood until April 10th 2016.


It’s a Merry Knitted Christmas at Wester Hailes Library

tree1Wester Hailes Library’s ‘Knit & Natter’ group have truly embraced the festive season by producing a fabulous knitted tree, complete with knitted crackers, baubles and Christmas puddings.

The group started work on this masterpiece last year, but have gradually added more woollen ‘leaves’ and decorations, to make it bigger & better than ever!


Wester Hailes ‘Knit & Natter’ meet at the Library on fortnightly Wednesdays, 2-4pm.  All knitters & crochet-ers, from beginners to experts, are welcome.  You can bring your own project to work on, or join together knitting for charities: the group have contributed to causes including disaster relief, soldiers’ welfare and local emergency midwives.


On alternate weeks, the fun and friendly Games Club (fortnightly Wednesdays, 2-4pm) offers a selection of old and new board-games to enjoy: from traditional dominoes and Scrabble, to modern classics like Taxi & Pass the Bomb!  Teas, coffees and biscuits are provided free of charge.

There’s also have a Colouring Group for adults on Wednesday evenings, 6:30-7:30pm.  This craze has been gaining international popularity, with colouring-in books climbing up the best-seller lists, and it’s recognised as a relaxing and therapeutic activity.  Try your hand at some of the beautiful and intricate designs!

Several Edinburgh Libraries run similar knitting and craft groups for adults.  Why not enquire at your local branch, or check their web page.