Christmas Card Trivia

I thought I would deviate a bit for this week’s devotional. This is not a devotional, but rather an interesting bit of trivia on how the tradition of sending Christmas cards began. With stamps now costing 49 cents apiece, and the ease at which we can email, the tradition of mailing Christmas cards is rapidly declining.

Before there were postmen, if you had a hand written note, or a little hand-drawn picture, you simply gave it to your loved one on Christmas. Before the Christmas card was invented, much time and care often went into preparing a greeting for a friend or loved one.

In the eighteenth century, children were made to copy out a carefully worded letter called a “Christmas piece” in their very best copperplate handwriting. The ‘piece’ wished their parents the compliments of the season. The neatness and care taken by the children was meant to show how they were progressing.

Beautiful hand-illuminated texts had, for centuries, been prepared by monks to mark important religious festivals.

Well-to-do ladies with time to spare might paint little designs or pictures with a seasonal theme in watercolors to give to their acquaintances.

When the Penny Post was started in 1840, it became much easier for people to send greetings to their friends.

Then in 1843, a well-known man-about-town, too busy for writing letters, asked an artist friend to design a card for him with a printed message which he could just sign. A thousand copies of the card were produced, and the very first Christmas card as we know it came into being.

The man was Henry Cole, director of London’s famous Victoria and Albert Museum. But it was not until the late 1860’s that the practice of sending Christmas cards became really widespread. By 1870 the Christmas card boom had begun; the halfpenny post was introduced for cards in unsealed envelopes, and the cards themselves had become cheaper because of new methods of color printing.

Christmas cards became so successful that even in 1880 the Postmaster General was having to warn everyone to “post early for Christmas”.

So, even though you may not be carrying on the tradition of mailing Christmas cards, make sure to buy or, better yet, make cards to give to those special people that God has blessed you with.

“All the brothers and sisters here send greetings to you. Greet each other with a sacred kiss.” 1 Corinthians 16:20