Lost & Found

These vintage Spanish Christmas cards reveal clues about the past

24 December 2017
Merry Christmas from the waiter

This small collection of Spanish vintage Christmas cards celebrate Spain’s traditional occupations, but look closely at the design details of each card. These beautifully ornate illustrations give us a fascinating insight into the bygone era of these time-honoured professions, especially into those that are now obsolete.

The lamplighter and the coal man are now enjoying electricity, but others such as the barman and the postman are still going strong, as is, surprisingly, the shoe shiner. And can you spot the block of turrón in almost every card? Keep an eye out too for some more surprising objects in this collection, including tropical fruits, blimps and a Japanese ship:

Merry Christmas from the waiter

Merry Christmas from the waiter

The Christmas card above illustrates a familiar job, but what the waiter is holding is sherry and liquor glasses, which are rarely used now but for in a few traditional bars.

Below, see a fabulous Art Nouveau Christmas card with a triumphant innkeeper strutting down the street to the rescue of many a thirsty punter:

Merry Christmas from the inn keeper

Merry Christmas from the inn keeper

Here’s a stylishly cut card from a stylishly dressed lady carrying an umbrella just in case:

Merry Christmas from the fashion designer

Merry Christmas from the fashion designer

Spot the three modes of Christmas postal transport. The Polar Express and the cargo ship may once have made it up to Lapland, but I don’t think the little Wright brothers’ plane could have carried many letters:

Merry Christmas from the postman

Merry Christmas from the postman

But the blimp and the vintage car, on the other hand:

Merry Christmas from the postman 2

Merry Christmas from the postman 2

The nightwatchman stood outside Valencia’s Estació del Nord:

Merry Christmas from the night watchman

Merry Christmas from the nightwatchman

A festive time of year to enjoy turrón, turkey, red wine and watermelon. Spot the three wise men round the corner:

Merry Christmas from the painter and decorator

Merry Christmas from the painter and decorator

Merry Christmas from the plumber

Merry Christmas from the lamp maker

Fortunately, child labour is now outlawed in Spain:

Merry Christmas from the plumber

Merry Christmas from the plumber

You can very occasionally still find shoe shiners on Gran Vía, particularly around Christmas time:

Merry Christmas from the shoe shiner

Merry Christmas from the shoe shiner

Some of the lamps you can find around Madrid’s old town are still from the era of oil lamps, but the filament has now been replaced with LED bulbs:

Merry Christmas from the lamp lighter

Merry Christmas from the lamplighter

One of my favourite Madrid pasteleros is Syrian. How times in Spain have changed:

Merry Christmas from the pastry chef

Merry Christmas from the pastry chef

And don’t forget all those festive pineapples, factories and Japanese ships again:

Merry Christmas from the locksmith

Merry Christmas from the locksmith

Merry Christmas from the electrician

Merry Christmas from the electrician

Merry Christmas from the drug storekeeper

Merry Christmas from the pharmacist

Merry Christmas from the gardener

Merry Christmas from the gardener

Merry Christmas from the barber

Merry Christmas from the barber

Merry Christmas from the baker

Merry Christmas from the baker

It’s always great to see a palm tree in a Christmas card:

Merry Christmas from the bellboy

Merry Christmas from the bellboy

Though styles have changed from finding dead game and poultry festive:

Merry Christmas from the locksmith

Merry Christmas from the locksmith

Merry Christmas from the milkman

Merry Christmas from the milkman

Nice horseshoe card design here:

Merry Christmas from the blacksmith

Merry Christmas from the blacksmith

Impressive balancing skills from the coal boy:

Merry Christmas from the coal merchant

Merry Christmas from the coal merchant

All photos © National Library of Spain.

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