Sending Christmas cards when the holidays roll around is something that people do all over the world. Christmas cards are sent to touch base with those that we know and to give them special holiday greetings. Most of us send Christmas cards without thinking anything of it but how did the tradition of sending Christmas cards first start? You may be surprised to find out the answer.
Christmas cards date back to the middle ages where engravers used a piece of wood to carve prints with religious tones. It seems that even then, people wanted to share in holiday greetings. As time progressed, the cards changed. The early 1800’s brought on the popularity of hand making your Christmas cards. They were first exchanged by hand but as the US mail system developed, the cards were sent in the mail. So many cards were being sent, that in 1822 the post office had to hire sixteen extra mailmen. The Superintendent of Mails even tried to petition congress that the number of Christmas cards being sent be limited because of concern of overburdening the mail system. The limit didn’t happen and sending Christmas cards became more and more popular as time went on.
It wasn’t until 1843 that Christmas cards were actually made for someone else to buy. A London artist named John Callcott Horsley was hired by Sir Henry Cole. Cole was a wealthy man who wanted to send out greetings to all his peers. The cards were a hit and England became the first country to start the popularity of buying Christmas cards.
In 1875, America was introduced to mass produced Christmas cards by Louis Prang. His cards were so popular that he was nicknamed “Father of the American Christmas card.” Louis Prang’s popularity was short lived as his cards did not depict traditional Christmas scenes. His cards favored flowers that were more suitable for spring. People stopped buying his Christmas cards in order to buy other cards that had Christmas trees or religious scenes on them and Louis went out of business in 1890.
Americans became enamored with Christmas postcards that were being imported from Germany. They sold for a penny and they were popular until World War I started.
Currently, two billion plus Christmas cards are sent each year within the United States. That is not even counting the other countries that participate in Christmas card sending. More cards sell during the Christmas season, than any other holiday. Sending a Christmas card has become a steadfast tradition for many people and will undoubtedly continue for years to come.