Top 10 Toys 2009

Christmas Cards - A Brief History

Every year millions of us send Christmas cards to our friends, family and loved ones, here we take a look at how sending the Christmas card all began.

The Christmas card is a card sent as part of the celebration of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, in order to convey between people a range of sentiments related to the time of Christmas. Christmas cards are usually given during the two weeks preceding Christmas Day on the 25th of December. Many people, including non-Christians, in Western society and Asia send Christmas cards.

The traditional Christmas card reads "wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year". There are numerous variations on this Christmas card greeting, with many Christmas cards expressing more religious statements, or containing a poem, prayer or Biblical verse. Many others stay away from religion with an all-inclusive "Season's greetings".

The content of the design of a Christmas card may relate directly to the Christmas narrative with depictions of the Nativity of Jesus, or maybe have Christian symbols such as the Star of Bethlehem or a white dove representing both the Holy Spirit and Peace. Most Christmas cards are secular and show Christmas traditions such as Santa Claus, objects associated with Christmas such as candles, holly and baubles, and Christmas activities such as shopping and partying.

Also on the Christmas card you get other aspects of the season such as the snow and wildlife of the winter. Some secular Christmas cards depict nostalgic scenes of the past such as crinolined shoppers in 19th century streets whilst others are humorous, particularly in depicting the antics of Santa Claus and his retinue. Christmas cards are usually commercially designed and purchased for the occasion.

Ist Christmas card

In London, 1843, the very first commercial Christmas cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole featuring an illustration by John Callcott Horsley. The illustration of a family with a small child drinking wine together, proved controversial, but the idea was shrewd: Sir Henry Cole helped introduce the Penny Post three years earlier. Two batches totaling 2050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each.

Early English Christmas cards usually favored flowers, fairies and other fanciful illustrations that reminded the recipient of the approach of spring and very rarely showed winter or religious themes. Humorous and sentimental Christmas cards with images of children and animals were hughley popular, as were increasingly elaborate shapes, decorations and materials. In 1875 Louis Prang became the first printer to offer Christmas cards in the USA, but the massive popularity of the cards led to cheap imitations that eventually drove him from the market. The advent of the postcard spelled the end for elaborate Victorian-style cards, but by the 1920s, cards with envelopes had returned.

Throughout the 20th century the production of Christmas cards was a highly profitable business for many Christmas card manufacturers thanks to the design of cards continually evolving with ever changing tastes and printing methods. During the 2 World Wars Christmas cards with patriotic themes were introduced and became very popular. Christmas cards with cartoon illustrations and risque humor caught on in the 1950s. The Nostalgic, sentimental, and religious Christmas card has continued in popularity throughout the 21st century, reproductions of Victorian and Edwardian cards are easy to obtain. Today modern Christmas cards can be bought individually or in packs of the same or varied designs.


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November 19, 2019
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