With the last of the leftover turkey and stuffing comes the stuffing of our mailboxes. One of the more cherished traditions this time of year is the giving and receiving of Christmas cards. While opening envelopes, licking stamps and filling your coffee table with pictures and well wishes from loved ones, have you ever wondered where this tradition began?
According to the Smithsonian Institute, the first Christmas card was mailed in England by Sir Henry Cole in 1843. Best known for founding the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Cole was a socialite with an overwhelming amount of letters that warranted a reply. As he was fretting over how to reach out to everyone without becoming a full time pen pal, he had an idea.
With the help of artist J.C. Horsley, Cole sent his correspondences a stiff piece of 5x3 cardboard. On the front of the cardboard was Horsley’s illustration, a family at table celebrating the holiday flanked by images of people helping the poor. On the back of the card was the message “ A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You.”
And with that, the Christmas card was born.
The Christmas Card traveled to America 30 some years later from Cole and Horsley’s creation. Louis Prang, a Prussian immigrant, made postcards with a flower and the text “Merry Christmas” in his print shop outside of Boston in 1875. Throughout the years, Americans developed all sorts of formats for their well wishes, from lithographs to postcards. There has been one that’s seemed to stick. The Hallmark Company is credited for creating the format of a cardwe use today, the 4x6 card folded once in an envelope, in 1915 in Kansas City, MO.
Despite our increased preference for all things digital and the decline of all things print, we still value Christmas Cards as a holiday tradition, maybe more so than ever. According to the Greeting Card Association, the UK public spent more on greeting cards in 2015 than ever before – taking the market value up to a value of £1.7 billion.
It’s not a surprise that people still love them.
In a busy world, giving and receiving Christmas cards is a rare opportunity to slow down for a minute and connect with those most important to you, no matter where they live. It’s some sort of magic that just by opening an envelope, we can watch families we love grow, travel, and experience the best of life. Not often enough do we send mail with good news and love. As long as we cherish the holidays, we will cherish Christmas cards.
Also, if you haven’t sent yours out, let this be a reminder!