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The Story Behind That Picture: "Christmas as in 1924"

By: Thorsten Overgaard [In Danish]

When you feel like complaining that Christmas starts earlier than ever, think of those who's work it is purchasing christmas goods already in the summer season for the goods to be produced and delivered for our Christmas shopping. And there's probably many more who have to deal with Christmas long before it's even November, as strictly business.

Den Gamle By
  Den Gamle By
  Den Gamle By
  The grocery store is a goldmine of sausages, fish, liquorices, etc.
  Porcelænsdukker i Den Gamle By i Århus
  Porcelain dolls in the museum store, surprisingly often at lower prices than today's plastic dolls.
  The Bakery in Den Gamle By
  The bakery is open for business all year with bakery made from original recipies
  The hardware dealker in Den Gamle By
  The hardware dealer
  Caroline for costume fitting, wearing the original fashion of 1924.
  H. C. Andesens original tinderbox
  There's of course also a lot of history Here's the original tinderbox of Hans Christian Andersen.
  Food and beer
Food and beer.

That's why it's important to remember that Christmas is essentially about peace on Earth and goodwill. It wasn't till later in history it came to be about birth of Jesus and - even later in history - Christmas wrapping and "where can we park the car?"

A lot could be said about Christmas. It cost a lot of money and goes on for too long. But when the gifts has been opened, returned for something else, we're ready for a new and better year. Because that as well is part of the tradition. A reboot and then a new beginning with improved ideals for life.

But what this story is really about is that I too had to carry the burden of the Christmas tree already in September, because that's how early we did the pictures for this years Christmas brochure and campaign for the museum The Old City in Aarhus, Denmark.

The models used was to some degree my own kids, and I can reveal that even a Christmas held in September has the same effect on a 6-year old girl as a real Christmas in December. And that even that the gifts were empty boxes made up for the photo. That the brochure and posters was sent to all schools has contributed to her achieving sort of an X Factor status amongst her friends ... so yes, it's been a great Christmas for her.

The interesting about Christmas in The Old City is that you're sent back to the historic Danish or European Christmas from 1625 to 1929 where it was about peace and quiet family traditions and goodwill. You can visit the hardware dealer and find practical gifts for the adults and the kids. We're talking about pots and pans, and metal toys for the kids. The closest you'll get to a wireless piece of electronics will be the oil lamp.

The baker tempts with fresh baked Christmas bakery made from old recopies, and on the street you can buy Christmas beer and Bishop Dumplings (later known as "Æbleskiver," apple slices), fresh made honey cakes, handmade Christmas decorations, jewelry and homemade candy.

It's exiting and very Christmas. And then later you can make up your own mind which type of Christmas you liked the best. The new way or the old way.

I have to admit I have a weakness for the baker which happen to be open for business all year. So some times, perhaps more often than that, I visit The Old Town to see what the baker has. In a way it serves as an excuse that it's historic recipes, so I can say I was doing cultural research ... which sounds better than "I was at the baker."
This year I found a re-print of the "Children's Christmas Calendar" from 1930 in the historic bookstore in The Old Town. I think that will be an interesting experience. It doesn't have chocolate in it, and you can't win a million. Instead each day is a large tear-off paper with a drawing and a short story. And I believe in good stories.

Christmas in The Old City starts tomorrow and continues to January 3, 2010. You can see opening hours and more at this link: "Christmas in The Old City"


November 21, 2009

- Thorsten Overgaard



The Old City is a a park area and town in the City of Aarhus in Denmark with more than 100 historic houses, most of them half-timbered. The interior of the houses act as museum with authentic furniture, wallpaper, kitchens and - in the workplaces and shops - tools and goods. A number of actors work as real people of their time, acting as housewifes, shop owners, school kids, etc.

I work as the house photographer throughout the year where we collect atmosphere and documentary photos for later use, as well as stage photo sessions for brochures, books, campaigns, etc.



- Thorsten Overgaard


Christmas in The Old City: My two daughters Caroline (13) and Robin (6) as models for Christmas in The Old City, dressed in original clothing of 1924.
Photographed with Leica M9 digital rangefinder camera and light from battery-powered LED daylight lamps
Styling: The Old City's Dressmaker. Hair: Jan Intercoiffure


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Thorsten Overgaard
Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish writer and photographer, specializing in portrait photography and documentary photography, known for writings about photography and as an educator. Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.

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