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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