I have posted before about the truth behind some of our best loved Christmas customs (see http://www.blindmansblogsey.blogspot.co.uk/2008/08/real-meaning-of-christmas.html ) and as we approach this special time of year once again, my research has revealed some almost interesting facts about the role that blind people have played in shaping many of our festive customs over the years.
For example, did you know that legend has it that Santa first got the idea to put sleigh bells on his reindeer after receiving a request from a grumpy old blind bloke in Croydon? Arthur Dodds had requested the auditory addition, claiming he was frightened that “one of the fat fuckers will run me over one of these years”. Fortunately, the elves translated the request for Santa as a plea from a nice old man who wanted to enjoy the full festive spectacle. However, the tradition was almost ended some years later when Santa was busy delivering presents in Australia. Unfortunately, Santa had parked the sleigh near a day/night VI cricket match. Innocently grazing on the pitch, Rudolph’s bells were mistaken for a ball and he was dispatched to the boundary with a lovely cover drive. On the plus side, his injured nose, which took the brunt of the shot, became his trademark.
And it was a ‘Scottish blind man who started the tradition of leaving out a carrot and a whisky on Christmas Eve. He had been at the whisky all night and left his last night-cap by the fireplace. A little worse for the drink, he later misjudged where he had left his glass and ended up toasting his fingers in the fire. As for the carrot, he had picked one up in the supermarket and brought it home to ask friends and family what it was. Of course, nobody knew, so he’d decided it made quite a nice poker.
You might also be surprised to hear that Christmas fairy lights were also inspired by someone thinking about their blind loved one, or so the story goes. Apparently, the young Swedish girl, Anja, was desperate to keep her blind father away from the presents under the tree, as he had a tendency to rummage around trying to guess what was wrapped up for him. So his ingenious daughter rigged up a series of live electrical charges all around the tree to keep him away. Neighbours commented on the lovely coloured sparks they made when the inquisitive Dad went pressie-hunting and Anja got the idea to develop a less sadistic version for the mass market.
Did you know that explosive Christmas crackers as we know them were developed that way especially for blind people? Originally they were small gifts shared at the dinner table, until an ingenious French man decided a more sensory experience was needed for his blind wife. Early prototypes were variable. Having blown up his shed, poor Jacques would have held his hands up in defeat, had he not already blown them off. However, he persevered and eventually his design was passed safe for use around the world.
Finally, the influence of the VI world extends through to some of our favourite New Year customs. The great Scottish tradition of first footing – being the first person to cross the threshold of your neighbour’s house – was started by a blind man in Glasgow in the 13th century. He’d been at his local tavern for a few celebratory ales and had had become a little confused on his return home, ending up at the wrong house, whereupon he was dragged inside for another drink before being sent on his way. Several houses later he eventually made it home and the next year he was careful to make the same mistake. His canny Scots neighbours soon caught on and the tradition took off.
So a VI Merry Christmas to you all!