Day 7: Traditions of the Season- Christmas Cards.
There’s nothing quite like receiving good old fashion snail mail, and when the holidays roll around snail mail takes the form of the oh so festive and popular Christmas card! From sweet to funny to sentimental and everything in between, Christmas cards have long been a way for people to reconnect and send their best wishes.
Christmas cards have been around since the mid 19th century, when it’s believed that the first card was commissioned in the UK by Sir Henry Cole and designed by John Horsley in 1843. That initial card featured 3 generations of a family gathered round a table enjoying each other’s company over wine. Lithographed and colored by hand, the card was quite impressive and 1,000 were sold. Before this, it was common for people to send what is called a “Christmas piece.” Exchanged between family and close friends, it would consist of a few simple lines surrounded by decorative borders on speciality paper.
It was not until 1870, when Christmas cards started becoming more popular and affordable. Part of their charm was the simplicity in their design. Combined with the availability of the penny post and drastically improved printing standards, the cards could be more readily produced at a cheaper price thus catapulting their popularity. A slogan of “Post Early for Christmas” was introduced in 1880, and after that cards were soon taking hold as a well loved Christmas tradition.
Sending a Christmas card spread throughout Europe as the demand kept growing with no signs of slowing down! Early on the designs featured on the cards bore little to no religious connection. Towards the end of the 19th century however, this gradually changed as images of holly, mistletoe, snow, and various other symbols of the festive season started emerging.
When Christmas cards appeared in America they were far too expensive and most people could not afford them. This all changed though when in 1875 printer Louis Prang started mass producing cards so the general public had access to them. His first cards featured delightful scenes of flora, fauna, and children. By the year 1915, John C. Hall along with his two brothers created what is perhaps the reigning leader in the card industry today, Hallmark Cards!
The early 1900s also saw the development of handmade cards. Able to offer a more personalized design and greeting, these cards were often more delicate with strips of foil and ribbon therefore they were hand delivered to the recipient. Nowadays, Christmas cards are still as popular as ever to give to loved ones, friends, and neighbors. Did you know you can send cards to Presidents, the Queen, royal family members, and even Mickey and Minnie?! Most of the time you’ll even get a reply back!
From funny jokes to winter scenes to religious sentiments and Santa, Christmas cards have always been a welcome sight in our mailboxes. Pick one up on your next student tour during the holiday season to send home to family! They have always been a festive and joyous way to end the year while looking towards the next. While Christmas Cards may be young in their origins, the charm and good will they produce are one for the ages.
Take some time to send someone you love a Christmas greeting this year! We all know we could use a little more cheer after such a difficult period.