It is wonderful to learn that Christmas cards originated in Victorian times, but it is true – this is one of the many assets that we have gained from this time. Letter-writing was an art in Victorian times, one that feels archaic in this time of instant communication, and yet I hope it does not die away. Victorian letter-writing heart-felt and memorable, these love letters would often be kept forever. was known for being Maybe because it is so rare, written communication feels so much more precious. Even though it is nice to get a caring email, there is something nice about opening up an actual letter or card that you get from the mailbox.
The first Christmas card came about when in 1843 a wealthy businessman – Sir Henry Cole commissioned an artist to design a card to send out to his friends, family, and business associates. It may have been that he had it made entirely for his business associates , with his family also profiting by a lucky association, or it may have been that entertaining his family was his primary goal. Nonetheless, many people were charmed. In bright, cheery colors we well the scene in the middle of the card: a happy, well fed family, obviously enjoying all that Christmas has to offer. They are flanked on both sides by poor families however. The Victorian period in England was the rise of the middle class, as they left the feudal system. Many of the new prosperous business class felt both guilt and responsibility to the poor, and that is illustrated here. Indeed, the practice of giving to the poor while appreciating their own prosperity sprung up around that time. That card is below for you to see:
Christmas cards came about at a particularly opportune time;for the first time the British public could afford to send them because of the development of the “Penny Post” stamp, which made it possible for any English person to send a piece of mail to another for just a penny. This was even decreased for a while afterwards, and the half-penny postage rate introduced.
Victorian Christmas cards had delightful, ornate designs and poetry of the time. Nature themes were often featured.
When did the Christmas card come to the States? Actually there is a fascinating story about that. According to an article on the Catholicism.org site there is evidence that Christmas was first celebrated in the United States between 500 and 800 AD. That’s right, there is evidence that the first Europeans in the US were not Columbus and his group, were not even the Vikings – but were Irish Catholic monks who had traveled the seas. The first American Christmas card was actually in stone: a carving that read:
“At the time of sunrise, a ray grazes the notch on the left side on Christmas Day, the first season of the year, the season of the blessed advent of the savior Lord Christ. Behold he is born of Mary, a woman.”
The “card” was actually a petroglyph, a carving in stone! Of course, the cards that we now send are made of paper – much easier to go through the mail.
Although the sentiment of celebrating Christmas had arisen since the time of Christ, we still have the Victorians to thank for bringing us this charming practice which has taken off and it remains one of the most enduring and favored parts of the holiday to this day. Millions of Christmas Cards are sent all across the world, all due to this first Victorian Christmas card.