The Origin of Christmas Cards

The tradition of exchanging Christmas cards has a long history in Western countries and has spread around the world. There are many commercial options for Christmas cards, although handmade cards can be exchanged. Some are religious in nature while others celebrate the secular side of the holiday. The origin of Christmas cards is directly related to the advances in both printing techniques and improvements in the cost and delivery of regular mail.

The first Christmas cards were sold by Sir Henry Cole of London in 1843. The Victorian era, known for elaborate detail, saw the rise of beautifully illustrated and ornate cards with images of flowers, fruit, magical creatures and other spring-inspired images. Children and animal images were also popular. The origin of Christmas cards in the United States followed the European tradition closely. Americans purchased cards for Christmas from Europe and began exchanging them around 1845.

Louis Prang, a printer who had traveled to Europe years earlier to learn printing techniques, created the first Christmas cards printed and sold in the United States in 1875. These early cards were traditional folded cards sent in envelopes. For the next century, Christmas cards have been a booming business and created a huge increase in the number of mailed items between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Cards generally reflect the popular themes of the times. Early Victorian cards for Christmas reflected the desire for an early spring, while cards created during the World Wars often showed patriotic images or themes. Television and movie character Christmas cards became popular with the rise in animated projects and more elaborate media productions in the 1960s and 1960s, including Disney, Looney Tunes and Peanuts characters.

The Christmas card has even caught up with the computer age, as electronic Christmas cards are prevalent. Experts credit these kinds of cards as part of a general decline in giving and receiving Christmas cards in the United States, as well as the trend to correspond via the phone or electronically rather than through written communication.

Many individuals, non-profit groups and companies use cards for Christmas as public relations tools. Official Christmas cards are mailed out each year from the White House, the British Royal Family and other dignitaries. Businesses send out corporate Christmas cards to clients, vendors and others to strengthen ties and put their name in front of current and prospective customers. Charities often send out Christmas cards as a way to remind people to be generous with donations at that time of year.

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