Fascinating History of Christmas Cards
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Christmas or Christmas Day is the religious and holy month of the year primarily celebrated on December 25th to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ according to Christians. The festival is celebrated with great fanfare and enthusiasm among all age groups. Families get together on this day to exchange Christmas gifts and enjoy the delicious food served on this occasion while singing Christmas carols.
There are different Christmas traditions followed by people all around the world. Sending Christmas cards to family, friends, or business associates on this day is one of the popular traditions of the Christmas celebration. It is believed that sending greeting on Christmas cards will bring good luck to the recipients. These specialized greeting cards are mostly small, displaying rectangular pieces of paper. The Christmas card messages are about, “Unwrap yourself a joyful Christmas”, “Wishing you a Merry Christmas”, etc.
Exchanging greeting cards have been an important part of the tradition for generations. They have been providing a great opportunity for people to exchange ideas, memories, and even small gifts. In 1534, a Christmas letter was sent with the “Merry Christmas” wish on it. An ornamental manuscript was given to King James VI, king of Scotland (also named as King James I of England) in 1611 that looked identical to a Christmas card. There were Christmas and New Year wishes in the center of it with a rose.
First Christmas Card. Source: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Though greeting cards have been since the Victorian Era, the practice of sending greeting cards was officially introduced by Sir Henry Cole in 1843. Cole approached his artist friend, J.C Horsley to design the first Christmas card. The greeting card was printed with a thousand copies by a London printer. It consisted of three folding parts. The first two folding parts was showcasing generous people being warm-hearted to the poor fellows, while the internal part was about a family celebrating at the dinner table. The card became very controversial as young children were shown enjoying wine along with the family.
After the creation of that greeting card by Sir Henry Coles, some Victorians started the ritual of creating these holiday cards. The use of greeting cards started to become more popular after 1870 as the printing methods started to improve. These Christmas greeting cards and postcards became less costly as they could be sent in an unsealed envelope comparing half price of a general letter.
During the late Victorian Era, a bird (robins) and snow scenes started to become very popular in greeting cards. Postmen with red uniforms were nicknamed, ‘Robin Postmen’, and snow scenes reminded the extremely bad winter weather of 1836.
Christmas Card by Louis Prang. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Louis Prang, an immigrant from Prussian Silesia (originally from Germany) is known as the father of the American Christmas card. He printed the first affordable Christmas cards in 1875. His cards were different from Cole and Horsely’s holiday cards. These cards were very artistic featuring nature, flowers, plants, children, and wishes like “Merry Christmas”.
Anne Oakley personalized Christmas card 1891. Source: Wikimedia Commons
The appreciation for holidays started to grow widely in the late 1800s. Different card competitions were held, and card businesses started to reach their peak. People started to collect Christmas cards as collectibles. The famous sharpshooter and the star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show Anne Oakley sent the first personalized Christmas cards to her friends and family in Scotland featuring her photo in the card in 1891.
The modern Christmas card industry started to rise at its height at the beginning of the 1900s while the popularity of homemade Christmas cards started to rise as well. These handmade cards were beautifully customized with foil, ribbon, and a special message, and their shapes were odd too.
In 1915, the commercial business of holiday cards reached a new level when Joyce Clyde Hall and his two other brothers William and Rollie started the popular card company, Hallmark. Though the first created cards by Hallmark were small in size and left with no space for writing, in today’s modern era the cards are colorfully designed with some sweet short messages, featuring Santa Claus, flowers, stars, etc. The most popular Christmas card of Hallmark at all time published in 1977 is about three little angels designed by Ruth Morehead with the wishes, “God bless you, love you, keep you... at Christmas time and always.”
As more time passed, the artistic tradition of exchanging greeting cards started to develop. People started to send these artistic holiday cards on Christmas and New Year to their friends and family. In 1930, the New York Public Library hosted an exhibition to make people more familiar with the use of greeting cards. During the 1940s, Americans started to become more acquainted with the use of greeting cards when charitable organizations started to raise money by selling Christmas cards with their logos on them.
In 1947’s William E. Henry (an American psychologist) tried to establish the importance of greeting cards by conducting a study. He showed greeting cards are one of the special mediums to convey feelings to one another. He also stated, greeting cards as a formal celebration of ideas, involve personal warmth and home feelings, making someone remember their sweet childhood moments.
In simple words, sending greeting cards to dears is one of the best means to show affection and love towards them. The first introduction of Christmas stamps brought more popularity to the Christmas cards designed with a wreath, two candles, and the message, “Christmas, 1962”.
Personalized digital greeting card
The greeting-card industry rapidly started to grow after the 2000s. New printing methods started to develop, making it easier to produce customized holiday greeting cards. As the use of the Internet started to spread wider, the tradition of exchanging greeting cards started to become modernized too. While some are still holding the culture of sharing physical holiday cards, digitalization has made the process easier, more efficient, and inexpensive as well. Personalized e-greeting cards can be easily created with a few mouse clicks and shared without having the trouble to send them through the post office. The Christmas card is now visually created in different languages in the format of audio, video, and images created for segmented audiences.
The tradition of exchanging greeting cards at Christmas that have started with Sir Henry Cole and is still passed from generation to generation. The invention of these cards flourished the tradition of our celebration of Christmas.