Have you written all your Christmas cards yet? No, neither have I. We all will be soon though won’t we, but why? Where and how did this tradition begin?
The first Christmas card designed for sale was by London artist John Calcott Horsley and commissioned by Sir Henry Cole, a wealthy British businessman of the 1800’s, who found himself too busy in the festive season to send individual messages to all his friends. Yes, I know the feeling. Being a man who liked to be prepared therefore, in the summer of 1843 Sir Henry commissioned Horsley to design an impressive card for that year’s Christmas.
Horsley produced a card divided into three sections. Each of the two side panels depicted a good deed; clothing and feeding the poor and hungry. The centrepiece featured a party of adults and children, with plentiful food and drink.
The first Christmas card’s inscription read: “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.” “Merry” was then a spiritual word meaning “blessed,” as in “Merry old England,” rather than our meaning now of being a bit the worse for wear after too much alcohol!
Printed cards soon became the rage in England; then in Germany, and later America.
Nowadays, Christmas is the number one card-selling holiday of the year, and quite right too. Where would we be without them?