The Christmas season is yet to come, but it’s time to think about a Christmas tree in NYC. While all of us decorate evergreens and send greetings to relatives and friends on Christmas Eve, the history of Christmas cards celebrates 175 years today! Originating in the United Kingdom, the first Christmas card has become a worldwide tradition soon. Have you ever wondered when was the first Christmas card sent and what design was in the early Christmas cards? In this article, we’ll discuss the most popular questions.
The early history of Christmas cards
Initially, Sir Henry Cole invented Christmas cards in 1843. He was a dedicated civil servant and scholar in the UK and had worked to implement a reform related to lowering the prices for postage to a single penny. However, he still needed a working solution to encourage citizens to use the services of the British postal system. And he has found it.
A majority of modern Christmas traditions come to us from the times of Victorian society, including the organization of banquets, charities, and parties, as well as caroling. Apart from this, British citizens tended to write long letters with greetings, send them to relatives and friends, and visit beloved ones to wish Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Such practice on Christmas Eve turned out to be exhausting and consumed much time. Sir Henry Cole was willing to solve these issues by implementing nice-decorated Christmas postcards instead of long letters.
In 1843, Henry Cole ordered a design of a Christmas card in Mr. John Calcott Horsley. They printed around 1000 copies of postcards and successfully sold them out at a shilling per unit. Sir Henry Cole linked the popularity of Victorian Christmas cards with an increase in mail volume that has reached 11.5 million over the next year. The practice of sending such original greetings rapidly became widespread throughout the United Kingdom.
Design of the early Christmas cards
The very first Christmas card was made using lithographic printing that gave some monochromatic effect. The banquet scene was depicted in the center of a Christmas card, inspiring the Dickensian motives. Even though the design was quite festive and straightforward, there was a contradictory moment of depicting children with a glass of wine in their hands. On the side parts of a postcard, we can see the charity practice, a popular activity on Christmas Eve in Victorian society. Generally, the first Christmas card wasn’t very colorful, but it was appreciated anyway, thanks to its holiday spirit.
As for the later postcards, the motives of the banquet were still the central theme, but some other scenes were also added. This concerns scenes of ice skating, toasts, and more charity acts. Additionally, other significant trends in Christmas cards` printing of that time include the children’s portraits dressed in holiday suits and complicated lettering hidden in different elements of a Christmas scene.