Christmas Trivia - Christmas Cards

When did Christmas cards originate?

The first Christmas cards were commissioned in London in 1843, by Sir Henry Cole, who wanted a ready-to-mail greeting because he was too busy to write individual notes to all of his family, friends, and business associates. The cards were illustrated by John Callcott Horsley. The picture on the first card was of a family with a small child drinking wine together, and at the bottom read "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You." The cards sold for a shilling each.

Early English cards rarely showed winter or religious themes, instead favoring flowers, fairies and other fanciful designs that reminded the recipient of the approach of spring. Humorous and sentimental images of children and animals were popular, as were increasingly elaborate shapes, decorations and materials.

In 1875 the firm, Prang and Mayer became the first printer to offer cards in America.

In recent decades changes in technology may 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. Despite the decline, 1.9 billion cards were sent in the U.S. in 2005.

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