Season’s Greetings from the Night Watchman


Shown here is a color postcard from late-19th century Valencia, Spain, with season’s greetings from a night watchman. Public workers delivered their aguinaldos (season’s greetings) and received a small bonus or tip in exchange. The arrival of chromolithography in the world of graphic arts by the mid-19th century brought color to these simple postcards. The night watchmen were in charge of patrolling the streets and adjusting the street lighting. In some cities and neighborhoods, they also would open the doors of certain buildings. In some countries, during certain eras, they were also in charge of announcing the time and the weather conditions. They used to carry a stick and blow a whistle in case they needed to alert the neighborhood to any event. The occupation of night watchman existed in Spain, in other countries in Europe, and in some countries in South America since the 18th century. Many tradesmen also delivered this sort of greetings during the festive season: bakers, milkmen, electricians, apprentices, barbers, and paperboys sent their greetings for Easter or Christmas by means of cards that had their own particular style. The wording on those greetings was mostly standard and it was written or printed on the reverse of the card: “Season’s Greetings from your postman” or “Your night watchman wishes you a Merry Christmas,” or some such. The printed text on the front of the card described the characteristics of the occupation in question. This tradition endured from 1831 until the 1960s, when it started to dwindle. These greetings cards are ethnographic records of both the practice of asking for an aguinaldo by public workers and also of the occupations themselves, many of which no longer exist. The Valencian Library holds a vast collection of visual material that includes prints, photographs, posters, postcards, maps, drawings, and other minor printed ephemera, including more than 45,000 postcards dating from 1873 to the present. The postcards in the collection of the Valencian Library mostly are views of cities, monuments, urban squares, and everyday scenes. Most are printed by collotype.

Last updated: December 7, 2017