With Christmas just 3 short weeks away, I figure this is a good time to get started on my Christmas card list. I remember when I would send out over a hundred cards to friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. To save time I would use labels to address the envelopes and to sign my cards, but began to feel it was more of a chore and not a labor of love, so over the years, for various reasons, I’ve trimmed my list. With this I mind I thought I’d research the origins of sending Christmas cards and this is what I found:
No one is sure where the tradition of sending Christmas cards first started. Some say it began in England, where schoolchildren away from home would write to their parents reminding them that the gift-giving time would soon be near. The first known artist to create a Christmas card was John Calcott Horsley, who designed a card for Sir Henry Cole, a London museum director. Sir Henry Cole decided that it would be easier to send pre-made cards than to labor over individual greetings, as he had done as a child. Sir Henry had 1000 cards printed and sold them for one shilling each. At first, only the wealthy could afford them, then later less-expensive printing soon became available. Queen Victoria loved the idea and soon it became quite fashionable. By the 1850s, Christmas cards were a well established tradition.
Christmas cards did not become popular in America until the 1870s when Louis Prang, a German immigrant who owned a small Massachusetts print shop, designed and printed such beautiful cards that he became known as, “father of American Christmas cards.” The cards were favorable, but impractical to produce. By the end of the nineteenth century, less expensive cards were taking over and Prang was forced out of business. Before WWI, many of the cards sold in America came from Germany. After the war, the Christmas card business flourished. Today, over two-and-a-half billion Christmas cards are exchanged every year!
So, now that you know how they got their start, why not start a new tradition. This year when you send your cards, perhaps you could send a few to your local nursing home asking them to share the cards with those who may not have family or friends. Perhaps you could send a few to our service men and women overseas (click here for the link on how to send your cards to insure they arrive on time).