Christmas Cards

Christmas Cards are big business today, there can be few people in the West who don't receive just one. Even those who don't follow the Christian religion will often send seasonal greeting cards with non-religious designs. So when were they invented? And who made the first Christmas Cards?

History

People have been sending Christmas greetings to each other for centuries, some of these would undoubtedly have been in the form of cards. However the first mass produced Christmas cards didn't appear until 1843. Sir Henry Cole of London invented the Christmas card as a way of saving time! He had a large social circle and many greetings to send, so he commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley to design a special greetings card that he had printed.

Cole realised that other people might be in the same position as him, so as well as printing Xmas cards for himself he also sold them at a shilling a piece - quite expensive back in the 19th century. Because of the high cost, handmade cards were a popular alternative and had the advantage of being more personalized.

In the days of low literacy levels the inclusion of a greeting - perhaps a classic poem, seasonal verse or relevant quotation - allowed those with little education to express themselves.

The first American Christmas cards were printed in 1875. By 1880 the price of Christmas cards had dropped sufficiently that ordinary people could afford to buy them and around 11.5 million were produced. By 2005 the number sent in the US alone had grown to a staggering 1.9 billion!

Despite the impact of email and text messaging as ways to say "Happy Christmas", the physical Christmas card remains popular and an essential part of the holiday for many of us.