Children unwrapping a Christmas annual is part of a long-standing festive tradition in Ireland. These yearly publications have survived the digital age and are still available in book stores throughout Ireland.
For me, Christmas annuals and activities are ever so nostalgic. Crosswords, treasure hunts, matching games, and word sleuths tap into memories of a happy Dublin childhood. Nowadays, these Christmas inspired books remind me of the passage of time.
An annual under the Christmas tree was part and parcel of our Irish holiday excitement. Today I thought we might explore the tradition of Christmas annuals, plus you'll find some free printable activities for children, to celebrate the season, annual style.
Table of Contents
Annuals of the 1970's
Devoted weekly readers of comics in Ireland looked forward to receiving an annual featuring their favorite cartoon characters.
Back in the 1970's we read The Dandy, Beano, Mandy, Twinkle, Bunty and June annuals. I loved filling in the blank line under the heading “This Book Belongs To” and I always practiced my most stylized signature to claim my annual as my very own.
These publications mainly came from the United Kingdom, and this shared love of Christmas annuals dates back to the 19th century.
The First Christmas Annual
Annuals first appeared in the United Kingdom in the first decades of the 19th century.
Forget-Me-Not was an annual published in 1823 and by London-based publisher Rudolph Ackermann. Created for ladies, this annual contained short stories, poetry, and illustrations.
The idea caught on and these annual gift books were published in greater quantities throughout the 19th century to tap into the lucrative Christmas and New Year markets.
They featured literary and artistic contributions and in true Victorian style they promoted scenes of domestic bliss, happy families, and nostalgic childhoods.
A new genre of annuals developed towards the end of the 19th century. Publishers recognized a new and emerging market as literacy rates increased amongst the middle classes.
Children's annuals were born with publishers creating books aimed at boys and girls. The Boy’s Own Annual and The Girl’s Own Annual appeared in the 1880's with adventure stories for boys and educational articles for girls.
By the 1900's additional titles were added to the Christmas publication lists, and the Christmas tradition of annual gift books was firmly rooted in the UK and Ireland.
Purchasing a Christmas Annual Through School
Christmas annuals were part of our Irish Christmas school traditions. Folens, a publisher of Irish school text books, add to the excitement of Christmas by publishing festive annuals.
This year, Folens celebrated 50 years of annuals in Irish schools.
They produce four different copies for different age groups.
Súgradh (pronounced sue-grah) is the Irish word for play and this volume is for little ones.
Spraoi (pronounced spree) means fun and is next up.
Next comes Siamsa (pronounced shee-um-sah) which is translated as entertainment.
The volume for older kids is called Sonas (pronounced sun-ass) and this means happiness.
These Christmas Annuals are chock full of activities, games, stories, and competitions to entertain growing minds throughout the season.
Annuals are also donated to children's hospitals each year by this publisher.
Continuing the Tradition
Children’s annuals remain popular to this very day. Enduring favorites like the Beano and school annuals remain, but other volumes have been added to Irish book shelves including Star Wars, Doctor Who, Lego, Match of the Day, and Minecraft.
English Premier League teams like Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal also have dedicated annuals featuring their players, soccer tips and plenty of activities and games.
Free Printable Color By Number Activity
Learning and coloring activities were a big feature in Irish Christmas annuals.
They helped us learn the Irish language and improve our English vocabulary.
I always loved the color-by-number challenges. And so, to celebrate the Irish tradition of Christmas annuals, I have a special free printable for little ones, featuring festive color-by-number sheets.
Click the picture or the link above and you'll find a PDF printable file with four color-by-number activity sheets.
Happy coloring for Christmas.
Thanks for following my recipes and ramblings.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade
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- Shortbread or Petticoat Tails
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- A Very Happy Women's Little Christmas To All
- Irish Christmas Blessings
- Nostalgia For A Lingering Irish Christmas
Such a sweet tradition. I imagine you saved a few of those annuals! Have a blessed Christmas! Much love from Iowa, Mary
Irish American Mom
Hi Mary - They're are a few on a shelf in my parents' house, I'm sure. I hope you too have a lovely Christmas.
Best wishes to you and yours,
Mairead, you bring back so many memories with your terrific posts about Ireland.
All of my sisters and brothers loved reading the Beano and the Dandy in the 1940s and
1950s. Our schools did not hand out the Annuals so we waited for Santy to bring them.
About 5 years ago my eldest son surprised me on Christmas Day with a Beano annual and later on a Dandy - he found them in a comic shop. He knew I treasured my memories just as he treasured reading the comics on his visits to Ireland. Imagine 77 and still love the Beano especially or is it the warm childhood memories that I cherish?
Happy Christmas to you and your family. Many blessings on you for keeping Ireland alive in our memories with your chat, your recipes and so much more.
Irish American Mom
Hi Martha - Lovely to hear you too like Christmas annuals. The Beano and the Dandy were great - loved reading my Christmas annual every year. We always got the school annual, as well as one from Santy. I think Folens started producing them around the time I was in school in the 1960's and 1970's. How lovely that your son found you a Beano and Dandy annual as a special gift.
Thanks so much for joining me on this nostalgic trip down a Christmas memory lane.
Have a wonderful Christmas and all the best for the New Year.
Wow! What a fun treasure trove of activities for our students! Thank you! We like to do theme activities around holidays for fun, but try to keep them academic so we're making good use of time, especially before long breaks. We often do color by number activities, so I'm happy to have more. However, the crackers crafts are new, and students will enjoy making them for their family and friends. I didn't see them until today, so Christmas is over, but I'll file them for next year. We often have crackers at our family get-togethers, which were Zoomed this year, so I'm delighted to have some to make with students. Thank you, again, for these! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2021.
Irish American Mom
Hi Lynn - I'm delighted you will be able to put these educational printables to good use - that was exactly my hope when I started publishing these little add-ons for readers to use. I think there are many followers of this website who are teachers, and these resources will hopefully be helpful. Grandparents, parents and homeschoolers may also find them beneficial. Thank you so much for stopping by to check out my ramblings. I truly appreciate your support.
Wishing you and yours the very best for 2021.