Keeping Warm, The Old Way

Keeping Warm, The Old Way

Wherever you may be right now, whatever the weather, Christmas and New Year evoke many feelings of crisp cold mornings, snow-topped hills, icy breath and cold toes in bed. Young children in Victorian style Christmas cards – wrapped up with hands cozy in winter fur muffs – look somewhat romantic, but the reality of times before central heating and electric fires meant creating alternative ways of staying warm.

The hand warmer has been used in various ways around the world for centuries, and is still used by hikers and skiers. During the Victorian era ladies had elegant heated miniature water bottles which they would tuck into their fur hand muffs before taking a stroll. For less wealthy people, hot potatoes, coals or stones were bundled into their pockets to keep warm.

In Japan in the early 1920s, a Hakukin-Kairo hand warmer was invented resembling a cigarette lighter. Lit the same way with lighter fluid but with a lid on and slipped inside a velvet case, the wearer could keep his hands warms; slightly hazardous perhaps but non-the-less a beautiful item.

Still used today, the bed warmer, surely has kept many a chill at bay and warmed many toes. Originally a metal container filled with hot coals and used to warm the bed, it was a common household item. People used also pottery bottles filled with hot water, before the invention of rubber hot water bottles.

So if there’s a chill in the air, where ever you are, why not try keeping warm the old way – take a stroll with warm potatoes tucked in your pockets or if you’re lucky enough to have a vintage fur hand muff, take a walk in the park this New Year’s in elegant style.

Tamsin Cook