I don’t send Christmas cards. To me it seems like either a thing you do at school, or something you do when you’re a proper grown up. I am neither.
Yet it’s the festive season, and I can’t ignore this big element of Christmas – the thing that most of us take for granted, until perhaps the day we no longer get a single Christmas card. The problem I have is, where do you draw the line? Who are the people who don’t make it onto the card list? I have 165 friends on Facebook, but I know that they’re not all reeeally friends. Maybe I should send out a lovely e-card to Facebook and Twitter friends. It would save trees, though the electricity used would create a momentous amount of CO2 obviously.
A few years ago, I sent cards to prisoners held unlawfully around the world via the Amnesty International scheme. This was probably the last time I sent cards to anybody. If you’re going to send a card, do it with meaning right? Even if you just sign it, “Thinking of you during this difficult time, from …”.
The first official Christmas card was sent as a greeting from Sir Henry Cole, an English civil servant, to his friends and professional peers in 1843. I say “official Christmas card” because even before this, people sent hand made greetings messages to each other. Cole asked his friend John Calcott Horsley to design the card that he would send, depicting what we now see as a very traditional Victorian Christmas scene.
And yet, following this, some of the earliest designs rarely featured such scenes, but rather images of spring signalling the coming season…which seems kind of odd to me.
Obviously, one thing that can’t be ignored is the lucrative nature of the Christmas card industry. According to Hallmark’s statistics, they sold 1.5 billion cards during the Christmas period in 2010, compared to the Valentine’s Day period which saw just (just?) 144 million cards sold. Even the first cards, made by Cole and Horsley, were for business purposes.
Queen Victoria is well known for having celebrated Christmas in the style we celebrate it in today in Britain, and was herself a fan of sending Christmas greetings since the 1840s, like the card below from 1897:
Here are a couple of my favourite World War One Christmas cards which you can find here:
The Germans knew how to make ’em. Speaking of World War I, anybody seen a film called Joyeux Noel about the Christmas truce on 1914 between the French, Scottish and Germans? I only caught the end, but it seemed pretty good.
Reminds me of this song – originally not released as a Christmas tune, but due to the Christmas reference, it soon became one.
Anyway, here are some more cards from throughout the ages…
1980s Soviet card