Today I have the pleasure of sharing five postcards from my collection. They were all sent to the same address in France, one a year commencing 1950 and ending in 1954. I found the cards at a vintage fair in Blandford, Dorset in 2015. The images caught my attention and when the stall holder told me a story of unmarried girls, fancy hats and kissing between strangers, I found myself reaching for my purse.
Returning home I quickly got down to some research (thank you Google). In essence, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel and The Great Martyr Saint Catherine is a Christian Saint and virgin.
Vive La Sainte Catherine
Saint Catherine’s Day, is celebrated each year on the 25th November. Catherine is the patron saint of libraries and librarians, as well as teachers, archivists, and all those associated with wisdom and teaching. Her qualities are reputed to be beauty, fearlessness, virginity, and intelligence.
All very straightforward until I turned to the Free Dictionary which suggests Catherine is a figure from folklore rather than history. It goes on to say her feast day is no longer observed in the Roman Catholic Church calendar. According to Wikipedia the Church, persuaded by the overwhelming opinion of historians that Catherine had probably never existed, removed her from the calendar of saints in 1969. However, in 2002, while the majority of historians had not changed their minds, the Church had, and she was reinstated.
Wikipedia goes on to say ... Saint Catherine of Alexandria was a popular figure in Catholic Iconography. She was of noble origins, and dedicated herself as a Christian after having a vision. She was imprisoned by the Roman Emperor Maximus and ordered to be put to death on a spiked wheel. The wheel reportedly shattered the moment Catherine touched it, which may explain why her name is associated with a firework that revolves as it burns.
But what of the stallholders tale of unmarried girls, fancy hats and a great deal of kissing between strangers. Still searching for answers I stumbled across a blog by the name of A Woman's Paris where it all began to make sense. Saint Catherine’s Day is essentially a day when unmarried women over 25 years of age pray for a husband. The Catherinettes (as they are called), wear green and yellow hats made by friends or colleagues. The green represents wisdom and the yellow hope. The choice of colours is not accidental as it is said green and yellow do not “marry” well.
All I know for sure is the cards are very pretty, and I'm happy to have them in my collection.
But something else occurs to me - why no card in 1955 or in subsequent years? Maybe our Catherinette moved home, or perhaps she found her happy ever after... What do you think?
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