During the season of goodwill, everyone loves to write, send and receive beautiful, luxurious and festive Christmas cards. Traditional, modern, whimsical, funny or religious, Xmas greetings cards are perfect for sending your nearest and dearest best wishes for a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
While you’re composing your Xmas card list this year, take a moment to reflect on the origins of the humble Christmas card…
The Birth Of The Christmas Card
Picture Christmas back in 1843… The prominent educator and patron of the Arts, Sir Henry Cole was pondering over how to keep in touch with everyone that was listed in his bulging contacts book. With Christmas Day looming, he was anxious to find a way of sending seasonal correspondence, without having to spend countless hours writing personalised notes to his family, friends, and all of the acquaintances that he had made in Victorian England’s most elite social circles.
An inspired idea came to Sir Cole, when he was thinking about the recent expansion of the British postal system. Its introduction of the ‘Penny Post’ allowed people to send a letter anywhere in the country, simply by affixing a penny stamp to the envelope.
Sir Cole commissioned an artist friend, J.C. Horsley, to design a unique illustrated triptych featuring a family celebrating the festive season. The centrepiece illustration was framed with additional motifs that highlighted the spirit of Christmas. The UK’s first-ever Christmas cards were printed on cardboard and featured a salutation and a generic greeting of ‘A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You’.
A New Seasonal Trend
It wasn’t long before Sir Cole’s decorative greetings card became a quaint custom that would stand the test of time. His influential friends were delighted to receive such a fabulously creative custom designed Christmas card in the post. They quickly became early adopters of the new seasonal trend that would save them plenty of writing time.
Although other artists wasted no time in copying J.C. Horsley’s original Christmas card design, it would take several decades before Xmas cards were considered to be an integral part of the festive tradition that we know and love today.
The USA’s First Christmas Card
It took 32 years for the quaint English custom of writing and sending Christmas cards to cross the Atlantic Ocean to reach the United States of America. The charming festive concept was first introduced to the citizens of the USA by the owner of a print shop, located on the outskirts of Boston.
The Prussian immigrant owner Louis Prang designed an artistic Xmas card that was decorated with a reproduction print of a floral painting. Its seasonal greeting was timeless and understated, and simply read: ‘Merry Christmas’. This striking design inspired other people to create Xmas cards that were embellished with landscapes and scenes of nature.
By the turn of the century, the most exclusive Happy Holidays designs were often reviewed in the newspapers. Back in the day, there were even avid collectors of the original artistic Xmas card designs.
The Hallmark Christmas Custom
To establish a custom, it’s essential to create a brand that means business. In 1915, a Kansas City postcard printing company designed, created and printed its first-ever Christmas card. The company owned by the Hall Brothers would eventually become known as ‘Hallmark’.
The ‘book format’ Christmas card was created primarily because a standard postcard isn’t big enough to write a personalised message on. By increasing the postcard to 4 inches (W) by 6 inches (H) in size, Hallmark were then able to fold the cards in half, ready for inserting into an envelope. Their original seasonal holiday cards showcased a jolly Santa Claus dressed in his iconic red suit, the star of Bethlehem, and wonderfully wintery and festive scenes.
As in Sir Cole’s time, there was also a growing demand for unique custom designed Xmas cards. Amongst the famous artists of the day, that were commissioned to create stunning modern artwork for festive holiday cards, were Salvador Dali, Norman Rockwell and Grandma Moses.
The most popular Christmas card in Hallmark’s extensive seasonal collection is an understated but charming illustration called ‘Three Little Angels’. The Xmas card displays a pair of cherubic angels with eyes closed, deep in prayer. The third angel wears a halo that is slightly askew, and shows off beautiful blue eyes. In the first two decades since this holiday card was launched, the popular design was bought, written and mailed in post over 36 millions times!
Modern Day Xmas Cards
For many people, writing personalised messages in luxury Xmas cards is a tradition that is fondly looked forward to in the lead up to Christmas Day. These days, anything goes in terms of card design.
Modern day Xmas cards have no style restraints, and can be traditional, classic, humorous, scenic, graphic, photographic, or typography embellished. Cool and contemporary seasonal greetings cards can be luxuriously bespoke, fashionably handmade, or creatively DIY artistic. Environmentally conscious folk may prefer to send their festive best wishes in e-cards instead.
If you’re feeling inspired to design your own original Christmas cards this year, you can simplify the process by designing a stylish personalised card that boasts a beautiful photo of you and your family on the front. The chic bespoke Xmas card can be made instantly luxurious with gorgeous metallic foils and other stunning decorative details. Your one-of-a kind designed cards will impress your family and friends, and perhaps even start a new trend in your social circle.