Out with the old, in with the new

The passage from one year to the next, as recognized in illustrations, cartoons, calendar pages, greeting cards, and the like. The conventional representation of this passage uses the figure of Baby New Year, incorporating a jumble of symbolic elements from different sources into the infant. I’ll pick out just a few of these representations that have come my way in the past few days.

But first, the raunchy stuff — turning the calendar pages in the Tom of Finland calendars, where December of one year is customarily represented by a hypersexual Santa Claus, and the new year is recognized on the cover of the next year’s calendar. (Warning: this is ToF, so not to many people’s tastes.)

Tom of Finland. My favorite ToF Santa, who has a wicked grin, a big surprise for you in your Christmas stocking, and of course a gift box:


And then the cover for the 2023 calendar:


ToF didn’t traffic in cute infants, cherubs, and the like. Instead, phalluses rule — right out there, in action (not illustrated here); moose-knuckling through clothing (#2), or implicit in the scene (#1).

Baby New Year. From Wikipedia:

The Baby New Year is a personification of the start of the New Year commonly seen in editorial cartoons. He symbolizes the “birth” of the next year and the “passing” of the prior year; in other words, a “rebirth”. Baby New Year’s purpose varies by myth, but he generally performs some sort of ceremonial duty over the course of his year such as chronicling the year’s events or presiding over the year as a symbol

… The stereotypical representation of Baby New Year is as a baby boy wearing nothing more than a diaper, a top hat and a sash across his torso that shows the year he is representing (e.g. 2022). He is sometimes depicted holding or associated with an hourglass, a noisemaker, or other item either pertaining to time or New Year’s Day festivities.

Now consider the New Year’s card I posted yesterday on this blog:

(#3) Postcard printed in the 1910s by the Stecher Lithographic Company of Rochester NY, artist not identified (but now I see that it looks a lot like the work of Frances Brundage, to come in #4); forget the ejaculation and the cock, which were surely meant innocently, and look at Baby New Year, holding both an hourglass and a scythe

Exchange on Facebook:

Aric Olnes: What does the scythe signify?

AZ > AO: The death of the old year. I’m afraid it’s a patricidal scene.

It’s the scythe of the Grim Reaper.

A different handling of the scythe, in this Frances Brundage card from 1910:

(#4) The old year’s time is up — the hourglass again — but both characters are genial; the wise old year, leaning on his walking stick, recognizes that what must be must be

On Brundage, from Wikipedia:

Frances Isabelle Lockwood Brundage (1854–1937) was an American illustrator best known for her depictions of attractive and endearing children on postcards, valentines, calendars, and other ephemera published by Raphael Tuck & Sons, Samuel Gabriel Company, and Saalfield Publishing.

… In addition to ephemera, Brundage illustrated children’s classics such as the novels of Louisa May Alcott, Johanna Spyri, and Robert Louis Stevenson, and traditional literary collections such as The Arabian Nights and the stories of King Arthur and Robin Hood. She was a prolific artist, and, in her late 60s, was producing as many as twenty books annually.

And then Baby New Year is frequently represented as a cherub, a species of angel, with wings, as in these two Saturday Evening Post covers by illustrator and commercial artist J.C. Leyendecker, both with infant (rather than toddler) Babies:

(#5) Delivered by the stork

(#6) With a top hat, and with diapers too

On Leyendecker, there’s a series of postings on this blog, starting with my 1/22/11 posting “J. C. Leyendecker”.

As I said, just a few images that have come my way, a small sample of what is clearly a rich semiotic world. I do note with interest that although New Year’s greeting cards went out of fashion in the US some time ago (Christmas cards yes, New Year’s cards, no), the resources of the net now provide a place where it’s easy to send holiday wishes (for any holiday) almost instantly, as I did yesterday; I got dozens of such e-New Year’s cards today.

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