Monday, 21 November 2016

Postcards from France


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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45 comments:

  1. Thanks, Barbara, what great information, and I love the postcards.

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  2. I picked them up because they were so pretty but the stallholder really sold them to me with the story of St. Catherine. It is amazing the things you learn about when you start collecting postcards.

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  3. Goodness! Me! My dear old friend Catherine...!
    It was a study, when l was a boy at Catechism..
    4:15 on a Friday, after school at out Catholic
    Church..!
    So, l remember a great deal about her, HeHe! Who
    needs Google...!!! :). So, the above excellent
    read is all about right..Remember, when you have
    a parish priest teaching you, you learn a lot more
    than you would on Google...Google deals with facts,
    but, l like to think, a lot of the Saints story, are
    based on fiction....!
    But, the only thing she is remembered for is...The
    Catherine Wheel...That stupid 'pagan' thing that
    is lit on the 5th November, bonfire night, that never
    goes around when lit...It's pathetic...Hate It...!!!
    And, let's be clear here...it was'nt just a wheel, she
    was strapped to but a..Spiked Breaking Wheel..!

    Katherine of Alexandra's, history is well worth a read
    in fact...So much so, that a film was released in 2014,
    ..Decline Of An Empire....Starring Peter O'Toole...who
    died before the film was released...!

    Why no cards in 1955...Perhaps the printers were on
    strike! :(.

    The Quotes from Catherine of Siena...

    "You see this gentle loving Word born in a stable while Mary was on a journey, to show you pilgrims how you should be constantly born anew in the stable of self-knowledge, where by grace you will find me born in your soul."

    "You are rewarded not according to your work or your time but according to the measure of your love."

    "Love transforms one into what one loves."

    "Love follows knowledge."

    "One who knows more, loves more."

    "We trust and believe in what we love."

    "There will be love in proportion to faith and faith in proportion to love."

    "And the eternal Father said, 'And if anyone should ask me what this soul is, I would say: She is another me, made so by the union of love.'"

    "They love their neighbours with the same love with which they love me."

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    1. Willie I did think I should ask you before checking on Google. I actually looked for you when I was at the fair. I’ve not been back since, but it is a nice little fair, so I must make an effort when (if) the weather improves.
      I find it very odd that I had not heard about St. Catherine, the stallholder said she only knew about her because she looked her up on Google. My education is sadly lacking in so many areas, but my collecting habits are improving it somewhat. I think I may have seen Decline of an empire but will check it out on Netflix just to make sure.
      Thank you for adding so much more to this post Willie, you are a treasure.

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    2. PS I love your comment about the printers! :-)

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    3. The next vintage/craft fair at the Corn Exchange,
      Blandford is on the 14th March 2017..9:30~~4:00.

      Mia Mama..She wanna me to be a priest...HaHa!
      Can you imagine...Me a priest!!! Though! On
      reflection..I could have been Pope by now!
      I knew the Old Testament, back to front by the
      age of 10..!
      If l had been Pope..the last part of the Godfather,
      would be more believable..Oh! I don't know though...! :).

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    4. Thanks Willie, now I just need a 2017 diary, and I will be all set. Maybe I will see you there? You should be Pope – you have a kind and loving heart, and that should be enough.

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  4. This is such a wonderful premise for a story, Barbara! Your love of books and rich imagination shine through every word...

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    1. Thank you so much Marilyn, I feel very ignorant about so many things, but I love to learn. How I wish I could go back to school and start all over again. I would listen this time! :-)

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  5. She found her happy ever after, well I would like to think she did.

    Lovely cards

    Julie xxxxx

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    1. I would like to think that too Julie. Perhaps if we think it, it will be so…

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  6. Oh, Barbara! i used to go to the Book Fair in Blandford every year when I was a bookseller! As an Incurable Romantic , of course I believe that our heroine met her match and lived happily ever after. All those good vibrations from praying to St Catherine plus wearing the green and yellow.I hope those colors suited her- being Parisian she must have known how to select the best shades for her colouring! Once again an enchanting blog that makes me smile!

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    1. Hello Colleen, it is such a small world! How funny to think you, and I might have met during our bookselling years, perhaps we even did without knowing it. Your comment made me smile, and I’m sure you are right. She did meet the man of her dreams, and the colours suited her! I love a happy ending. :-)

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  7. Twenty-five? That's all? It's amazing to me how quickly society has moved away from the spinster mentality, instead suggesting that people SHOULD be single until their late 20's to early 30's.

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    1. I’m so pleased people marry later now. I was expected to get married in my early twenties – otherwise I would have been considered an old maid. At school, my friends and I talked endlessly about marriage and babies. Careers were secondary. Most of us looked on working as a stop gap until a husband came along. How sad is that? The good thing is I had my son when I was young, which left plenty of years to work and do something with my life.

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  8. I like to think that she found her happy ever-after, Barbara! They are all gorgeous, and I love these vintage postcards! Thank you so much for sharing. :)

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    1. With so many of us wishing that Linda, I’m sure it must be true. I’m glad you enjoyed the postcards.

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  9. Wonderful cards, and I LOVE the story. Perhaps the husband had already been found in 1955? Or she gave up and went into a convent? Whatever, I hope the story had a happy end. Have a great week, hugs, Valerie

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    1. Hello Valerie, I hadn’t thought of a convent but anything is possible. :-) Have a wonderful week. xx

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  10. What beautiful cards and what a lovely story about St. Catherine. It seems she pops up enough in the history to make it possible that she did exist. I'm glad the church decided to reinstate her as a saint. I'd like to think the card sender found happiness and had no time to send more cards.

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    1. Hi Lee, I’m glad about that too. She appears to have been a remarkable woman.

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  11. Hello Barbara! Dear, I adore these vintage postcards and most of all their story. So, this Friday we are celebrating Saint Catherine - the patron saint of librarians and all those associated with wisdom. That is fantastic. Until then, have a great week.

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    1. I do love a good library so naturally I am now very fond of Saint Catherine. Thank you for your sweet comment, have a happy week. x

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  12. Wow! This was fascinating. I love the idea of a patron saint of librarians don't you?
    And you can usually find a grain of truth in folklore if you look.
    Have a great one.

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    1. I do indeed Sandra! Anything to do with libraries is fine by me.

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  13. The postcards are so pretty! I had never heard of St. Catherine, or this tradition. Thank you for sharing, Barbara!

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    1. That makes two of us Teressa, who new collecting postcards would present so many learning opportunities. :-)

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  14. What an amazing find. Thank you for sharing not only some of your collection but also these interesting facts.

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    1. Hi Tracy, researching the things I find is all part of the fun. Thanks for calling in.

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  15. Lots of stories, both fiction and nonfiction, waiting to be told around this particular saint.

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  16. Love those post cards and at the back of my mind I remember mum saying something about the history of the Catherine Wheel. Wish I could remember what she told me, so not sure if it was the same story or not. xx

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    1. Hi Sue, I thought you would like them. I do have a vague memory of mum telling us something about Catherine Wheels on bonfire night, but I can’t remember what it was. She seemed to know a little about a lot of subjects, maybe that is what comes from having lots of brothers and sisters and being in service.

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  17. So interesting Barbara. You are good at researching. I don't think it would have occurred to me to look for information on st Catherine.
    I would like to think that the young lady found her soulmate hence the cards stopped. I like happy endings😀

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    1. Hi Shashi, researching is easy with the Internet. How I wish it had been available when I was at school. I did love the school library though and spent many happy hours there so maybe it was no bad thing.
      I’m going to believe she found her soul mate, because like you, I do like a happy ending.

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  18. My dear, dear Barbara! These are beautiful!!!!! And, I missed this post because my settings got messed up and I was unable to read new posts coming in! Very beautiful are these. Today is our Thanksgiving and I am thankful for kind and generous friends like YOU!

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  19. Such beautiful cards. I had never heard of St. Catherine or any of the traditions (green and yellow etc.). I always love learning something new and the history of these cards is intriguing. Thanks for sharing! :)

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    1. I hadn’t heard of her either Stephanie, but it was fun finding out.

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  20. I didn't know you collected vintage postcards too. I love a glimpse into someone's life like this :)

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  21. Hi Nikki, I collect just about anything made of paper. A weird obsession perhaps, but I like it. :-)

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  22. Such beautiful postcards you found, Barbara, and I love learning the fascinating history behind them!

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  23. I'd like to think she did find her happy ending! Love the postcards. Barbara, we are the sort who'd buy stuff just based on the stories behind them . . .

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    1. The stories get me every time Claudine, and I always want to know more about the history or the person. Research keeps me happily amused on cold winter days like today. Thanks for coming over, xx

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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