The popularity of Lucky Victorian Pigs blossomed in the 1800s. As symbols of good luck in a New Year, they were pictured on cards, jewelry, ornaments and candies. But pigs were not exactly new to good fortune.
As symbols of good luck, pigs go back at least to the Middle Ages. From a practical standpoint, owning pigs meant a person was prosperous and would never go hungry. From a symbolic standpoint, turkeys forage by kicking backwards while pigs root forward. That translates into abundance in the future.
Many popular piggy expressions reflect the association of pigs with happiness, financial prosperity and good luck. Included in the list are: happy as a pig in the mire, in the mud or in the clover’, and ‘you lucky pig.’
Like other forms of mass-produced ephemera, chromo- lithographed greeting cards proliferated during the 19th century. Queen Victoria’s exuberance for sending and collecting greeting cards, along with the new affordable stamp, pushed the envelope of greeting card culture. The wicked Christmas cards and Vinegar Valentines are proof that straight-laced Victorians did have a sense of whimsy and fun-loving, sometimes wicked humor.
In Germany the saying is “Glücksschwein”, or lucky pig. And the ever-popular schwein haben means “got pig.”
Pig decorations and illustrations on good luck and best wishes cards were common in Germany and remain favorites to this day. This is especially true around the New Year.
The tradition of the peppermint pig started in Saratoga Springs, NY in the 1880’s. Like the Christmas Pickle, it was a tradition with roots in Europe, but it was distinctively American. where local candy maker Jim Mangay wanted to approximate a marzipan pig from Europe. In the glamorous Saratoga hotels of the time marzipan was difficult to find. So he improvised with peppermint oil.
After Christmas (or New Year’s) dinner the head of the household would place the pig in a velveteen pouch and smash it with a metal mallet. He passed it around the table, letting everyone take a turn at smashing the piggy. As they did, each person would recall something positive that happened over the last year.
The pig was made of hard peppermint, which tastes almost like a candy cane. In 1988, Saratoga Sweets’ candy-maker, Mike Fitzgerald, revived the tradition after he found an original pig mold.
Wishing all a year filled with Lucky Victorian Pigs.
Racing Nellie Bly
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