This year, many people around the globe will send Christmas cards to share holiday greetings with family and friends. The annual holiday letter has become a popular method for folks to stay in touch and update their circle of acquaintances with family news and events. These traditional cards and letters have evolved over the generations to become the newsletters and greetings that they are today. But there is a long history of the Christmas cards that goes back beyond the modern society to an entirely different century and culture.
England was the country that saw the first Christmas card more than 150 years ago. In 1843, a man by the name of Sir Henry Cole wanted to find a way to alert his friends to the plight of the poor that Christmas season. He commissioned John Calcott Horsley to paint the first Christmas card with a picture of a happy family surrounded by people helping the poor and needy. The sentiment inside the card simply read, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.” This simple greeting card was the humble beginnings of what has become a multi-million dollar industry today.
Although Americans were quick to jump on the Christmas card bandwagon, there were no Christmas cards available for purchase in this country for the first 30 years of the trend. Instead, people had to have their cards shipped from England. However, in 1875 that all changed, when a German immigrant named Louis Prang opened his own lithograph shop and sold the first line of American-made cards. Within six years this industrious entrepreneur was producing more than five million cards every year! Today, collectors still enjoy his work with many winter scenes, glowing fireplaces and playing children. You can still find copies of these cards in a variety of collections today.
We have come a long way since the beginnings of Christmas cards. Today, you can find Christmas cards in all shapes and sizes; from the spiritual to the humorous and everything in between. You can also find cards for any of the holidays that are celebrated during this time of the year, allowing many to send warm wishes whether they celebrate Christmas or another holiday. Sending Christmas cards and letters has become a holiday tradition for many families, and the source of many humorous anecdotes in this country. But the best part of Christmas cards is to share the wishes and greetings of the season and to keep in touch with friends and family members that you may not have the chance to see or talk to otherwise.
Modern Christmas cards can be bought individually but are usually sold in packs of the same or varied designs. A revival of interest in paper crafts, particularly scrapbooking, has raised the status of the homemade card and made available an array of tools for stamping, punching and cutting. Advances in digital photography and printing have provided a more technological way to personalize cards with photos, messages, or clip art. Technology may also be responsible for the decline of the Christmas card. The estimated number of cards received by American households dropped from 29 in 1987 to 20 in 2004. Email and telephones allow for more frequent contact and are easier for generations raised without handwritten letters – especially given the availability of websites offering free email Christmas cards.