Christmas card is a greeting card sent as part of the traditional
Christmas in order to convey between people a range of
sentiments related to the
Christmas and holiday season. Christmas
cards are usually exchanged during the weeks preceding
by many people (including non-Christians) in Western society and in
Asia. The traditional greeting reads "wishing you a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year". There are innumerable variations on this
greeting, many cards expressing more religious sentiment, or
containing a poem, prayer,
Christmas song lyrics or Biblical verse;
others stay away from religion with an all-inclusive "Season's
Christmas card is generally commercially designed and purchased for
the occasion. The content of the design might relate directly to the
Christmas narrative with depictions of the Nativity of Jesus, or have
Christian symbols such as the
Star of Bethlehem
Star of Bethlehem or a white dove
representing both the
Holy Spirit and Peace. Many
Christmas cards show
Christmas traditions, such as seasonal figures (e.g., Santa Claus,
snowmen, and reindeer), objects associated with
Christmas such as
candles, holly, baubles, and
Christmas trees, and Christmastime
activities such as shopping, caroling, and partying, or other aspects
of the season such as the snow and wildlife of the northern winter.
Some secular cards depict nostalgic scenes of the past such as
crinolined shoppers in 19th century streetscapes; others are humorous,
particularly in depicting the antics of Santa and his elves.
Christmas stamps and stickers
1.5 Collectors items
1.6 Home-made cards
Christmas card list
3 Environmental impact and recycling
6 Further reading
7 External links
The world's first commercially produced
Christmas card, designed by
John Callcott Horsley
John Callcott Horsley for
Henry Cole in 1843
Children looking at
Christmas cards in New York 1910
Christmas card by Louis Prang, showing a group of anthropomorphized
frogs parading with banner and band.
The first recorded
Christmas cards were sent by
Michael Maier to James
I of England and his son
Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales
Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1611.
It was discovered in 1979 by
Adam McLean in the Scottish Record
Office. They incorporated
Rosicrucian imagery, with the words of
the greeting – "A greeting on the birthday of the Sacred King, to
the most worshipful and energetic lord and most eminent James, King of
Great Britain and Ireland, and Defender of the true faith, with a
gesture of joyful celebration of the Birthday of the Lord, in most
joyand fortune, we enter into the new auspicious year 1612" – being
laid out to form a rose.
The next cards were commissioned by Sir
Henry Cole and illustrated by
John Callcott Horsley
John Callcott Horsley in London on 1st May 1843. The central
picture showed three generations of a family raising a toast to the
card's recipient: on either side were scenes of charity, with food and
clothing being given to the poor. Allegedly the image of the family
drinking wine together proved controversial, but the idea was shrewd:
Cole had helped introduce the
Penny Post three years earlier. Two
batches totaling 2,050 cards were printed and sold that year for a
Early British cards rarely showed winter or religious themes, instead
favoring flowers, fairies and other fanciful designs that reminded the
recipient of the approach of spring. Humorous and sentimental images
of children and animals were popular, as were increasingly elaborate
shapes, decorations and materials. At
Christmas 1873, the lithograph
firm Prang and Mayer began creating greeting cards for the popular
market in Britain The firm began selling the
Christmas card in America
in 1874, thus becoming the first printer to offer cards in America.
Its owner, Louis Prang, is sometimes called the "father of the
Christmas card." By the 1880s, Prang was producing over
five million cards a year by using the chromolithography process of
printmaking. However, the popularity of his cards led to cheap
imitations that eventually drove him from the market. The advent of
the postcard spelled the end for elaborate Victorian-style cards, but
by the 1920s, cards with envelopes had returned. The extensive Laura
Seddon Greeting Card Collection from the Manchester Metropolitan
University gathers 32,000 Victorian and
Edwardian greeting cards,
printed by the major publishers of the day, including Britain’s
first commercially produced
The production of
Christmas cards was, throughout the 20th century, a
profitable business for many stationery manufacturers, with the design
of cards continually evolving with changing tastes and printing
techniques. The now widely recognized brand
Hallmark Cards was
established in 1913 by
Joyce Hall with the help of brother Rollie Hall
to market their self-produced
Christmas cards. The Hall brothers
capitalized on a growing desire for more personalized greeting cards,
and reached critical success when the outbreak of World War I
increased demand for cards to send to soldiers. The World Wars
brought cards with patriotic themes. Idiosyncratic "studio cards" with
cartoon illustrations and sometimes risque humor caught on in the
1950s. Nostalgic, sentimental, and religious images have continued in
popularity, and, in the 21st century, reproductions of Victorian and
Edwardian cards are easy to obtain. Modern
Christmas cards can be
bought individually but are also sold in packs of the same or varied
designs. In recent decades changes in technology may be responsible
for the decline of the
Christmas card. The estimated number of cards
received by American households dropped from 29 in 1987 to 20 in
2004. Email and telephones allow for more frequent contact and are
easier for generations raised without handwritten letters - especially
given the availability of websites offering free email Christmas
cards. Despite the decline, 1.9 billion cards were sent in the U.S. in
2005 alone. Some card manufacturers now provide E-cards. In the
Christmas cards account for almost half of the volume of greeting
card sales, with over 668.9 million
Christmas cards sold in the 2008
festive period. In mostly non-religious countries (e.g. Czech
Republic), the cards are rather called New Year Cards, however they
are sent before
Christmas and the emphasis (design, texts) is mostly
given to the New Year, omitting religious symbols.
President Johnson's 1967
Christmas cards began with Queen Victoria in the 1840s. The
British royal family's cards are generally portraits reflecting
significant personal events of the year.
Despite the governing practice of the separation of church and state
within American politics, there is a long-standing custom for the
First Lady to send
Christmas Cards each
holiday season. The practice originated with
Coolidge, who was the first president to issue a written statement of
peaceful tidings during the holidays in 1927. President
Herbert Hoover was the first to give
Christmas notes to the White
House staff, and
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first
president to utilize the card format (rather than the previously used
notes or a written statement) that most closely resembles the
Christmas cards of today.
In 1953, U.S.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first official
White House card. The cards usually depict
White House scenes as
rendered by prominent American artists. The number of recipients has
snowballed over the decades, from just 2,000 in 1961 to 1.4 million in
Christmas Card, 1947
Many businesses, from small local businesses to multi-national
Christmas cards to the people on their customer
lists, as a way to develop general goodwill, retain brand awareness
and reinforce social networks. These cards are almost always discrete
and secular in design, and do not attempt to sell a product, limiting
themselves to mentioning the name of the business. The practice
harkens back to trade cards of the 18th century, an ancestor of the
Christmas card promoting Royal typewriters
Many organizations produce special
Christmas cards as a fundraising
tool. The most famous of these enterprises is probably the UNICEF
Christmas card program, launched in 1949, which selects artwork
from internationally known artists for card reproduction. The UK-based
Charities Advisory Trust gives out an annual "Scrooge Award" to the
cards that return the smallest percentage to the charities they claim
to support although it is not universally well received by the
Christmas card producers.
Christmas stamps and stickers
Santa Coming Down the Chimney
Many countries produce official
Christmas stamps, which may be
brightly colored and depict some aspect of
Christmas tradition or a
Nativity scene. Small decorative stickers are also made to seal the
back of envelopes, typically showing a trinket or some symbol of
In 2004, the German post office gave away 20 million free scented
stickers, to make
Christmas cards smell of a fir
cinnamon, gingerbread, a honey-wax candle, a baked apple and an
From the beginning,
Christmas cards have been avidly collected. Queen
Mary amassed a large collection that is now housed in the British
Museum. The University College London's Slade School of Fine Art
houses a collection of handmade
Christmas Cards from alumni such as
Paula Rego and Richard Hamilton and are displayed at events over the
Christmas season, when members of the public can make their own
Christmas cards in the Strang Print Room. Specimens from the
"golden age" of printing (1840s–1890s) are especially prized and
bring in large sums at auctions. In December 2005, one of Horsley's
original cards sold for nearly £9,000. Collectors may focus on
particular images like Santa Claus, poets, or printing techniques. The
Christmas card that holds the world record as the most expensive ever
sold was a card produced in 1843 by J. C. Horsley and
commissioned by civil servant Sir Henry Cole. The card, one of the
world's first, was sold in 2001 by UK auctioneers Henry Aldridge to an
anonymous bidder for a record breaking £22,250.
Santa Claus and his reindeer
Silk cord and tassels, c. 1860
Victorian, c. 1870
Christmas Card, 1880
Postcard, c. 1901
Christmas card, 1904
Christmas postcard 1907
Christmas card, 1912
American card, c. 1920
Christmas card, 1910
Christmas card made on a PC incorporating digital photography.
Since the 19th century, many families and individuals have chosen to
make their own
Christmas cards, either in response to monetary
necessity, as an artistic endeavour, or in order to avoid the
commercialism associated with
Christmas cards. With a higher
preference of handmade gifts during the 19th century over purchased or
commercial items, homemade cards carried high sentimental value as
gifts alone. Many families make the creation of
Christmas cards a
family endeavour and part of the seasonal festivity, along with
Christmas cake and decorating the tree. Over the years
such cards have been produced in every type of paint and crayon, in
collage and in simple printing techniques such as potato-cuts. A
revival of interest in paper crafts, particularly scrapbooking, has
raised the status of the homemade card and made available an array of
tools for stamping, punching and cutting.
Advances in digital photography and printing have provided the
technology for many people to design and print their own cards, using
their original graphic designs or photos, or those available with many
computer programs or online as clip art, as well as a great range of
typefaces. Such homemade cards include personal touches such as family
photos and holidays snapshots. Crowdsourcing, another trend enabled by
the Internet, has allowed thousands of independent and hobbyist
graphic designers to produce and distribute holiday cards around the
Christmas card list
Christmas Market in Nürnberg, lithography from the 19th century.
Christmas card, 1919
Many people send cards to both close friends and distant
acquaintances, potentially making the sending of cards a multi-hour
chore in addressing dozens or even hundreds of envelopes. The greeting
in the card can be personalized but brief, or may include a summary of
the year's news. The extreme of this is the
Christmas letter (below).
Because cards are usually exchanged year after year, the phrase "to be
Christmas card list" is used to indicate a falling out
between friends or public figures.
Main article: Round-robin letter
Some people take the annual mass mailing of cards as an opportunity to
update those they know with the year's events, and include the
Christmas letter" reporting on the family's doings,
sometimes running to multiple printed pages. In the UK these are known
as round-robin letters. While a practical notion, Christmas
letters meet with a mixed reception; recipients may take it as boring
minutiae, bragging, or a combination of the two, whereas other people
Christmas letters as more personal than mass-produced cards
with a generic missive and an opportunity to "catch up" with the lives
of family and friends who are rarely seen or communicated with. Since
the letter will be received by both close and distant relatives, there
is also the potential for the family members to object to how they are
presented to others; an entire episode of
Everybody Loves Raymond
Everybody Loves Raymond was
built around conflict over the content of just such a letter.
Environmental impact and recycling
Christmas card with holly
During the first 70 years of the 19th century it was common for
Christmas and other greeting cards to be recycled by women's service
organizations who collected them and removed the pictures, to be
pasted into scrap books for the entertainment of children in
hospitals, orphanages, kindergartens and missions. With children's
picture books becoming cheaper and more readily available, this form
of scrap-booking has almost disappeared.
Recent concern over the environmental impact of printing, mailing and
delivering cards has fueled an increase in e-cards.
The U.K. conservation charity
Woodland Trust runs an annual campaign
to collect and recycle
Christmas cards to raise awareness of recycling
and collect donations from corporate sponsors and supporters. All
recycled cards help raise money to plant more trees. In the 12 years
Recycling Scheme has been
running, more than 600 million cards have been recycled. This has
Woodland Trust to plant more than 141,000 trees, save over
12,000 tonnes of paper from landfill and stop over 16,000 tonnes of
CO2 from going into the atmosphere – the equivalent to taking more
than 5,000 cars off the road for a year. The scheme has had
celebrity supporters including Jo Brand, Dermot O' Leary and Sean Bean
and is the longest running scheme of its type in the country.
Christmas card made on a PC
The traditional English greeting of "Merry
Christmas and a Happy New
Year" as it appears in other languages:
Albanian: Gëzuar Krishtlindjet dhe Vitin e Ri
Basque: Gabon Zoriontsuak eta urte berri on
Breton: Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat
Bulgarian: Весела Коледа и Честита Нова
Catalan: Bon Nadal i Feliç Any Nou
Chinese Simplified (China, except Hong Kong):
Chinese Traditional (Hong Kong & Taiwan):
Cornish: Nadelik Lowen, Bledhen Nowyth Da.
Croatian - Hrvatski: Čestit Božić i sretna Nova godina
Czech: Veselé vánoce a šťastný nový rok. But mostly used is
secular 'P.F.' standing for French 'Pour féliciter' (literally 'For
happiness in the year...').
Danish: Glædelig jul og godt nytår! or simply God jul
Dutch: Prettige kerstdagen en een gelukkig nieuwjaar
Estonian: Häid jõule ja head uut aastat
Esperanto: Gajan kristnaskon kaj feliĉan novan jaron
Filipino: Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon
Finnish: Hyvää joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta
French: Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année
Galician: Bo Nadal e Feliz Aninovo
Georgian: გილოცავთ შობა-ახალ
Weihnachten und ein glückliches/gutes Neues Jahr
Greek: Καλά Χριστούγεννα και
ευτυχισμένος ο Καινούριος Χρόνος
Hungarian: Kellemes karácsonyi ünnepeket és boldog új évet or
simply B. ú. é. k.
Icelandic: Gleðileg jól og farsælt nýtt ár
Indonesian: Selamat Hari Natal dan Tahun Baru
Irish: Nollaig Shona Duit
Italian: Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo
Kashubian: Wiesołëch Gòdów i szczestlewégò Nowégò Rokù
Korean : 메리 크리스마스
Latvian: Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus un laimīgu Jauno gadu
Lithuanian: Linksmų šventų Kalėdų ir laimingų Naujųjų metų
Macedonian: Среќна Нова Година и честит
Malay: Selamat Hari Krismas dan Tahun Baru
Maltese: Il-Milied Hieni u s-Sena t-Tajba
Mongolian: Зул сар болон Шинэ жилийн баярын
Norwegian: God jul og godt nyttår
Persian: کریسمس و سال نو مبارک
Polish: Wesołych Świąt i Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku
Portuguese: Feliz Natal e um Feliz Ano Novo
Romanian: Crăciun Fericit și La mulți ani
Russian: С Новым годом и Рождеством
Sinhala: Suba naththalak wewa, suba aluth aurudhak wewa
Slovak: Veselé Vianoce a Štastný Nový rok
Slovenian: Vesel Božič in Srečno Novo Leto
Spanish: Feliz Navidad y próspero Año Nuevo
Swedish: God Jul och Gott Nytt År
Vietnamese: Chúc mừng Giáng Sinh và chúc mừng năm mơi (acute
accent over ơ in "mơi")
Ukrainian: Веселих свят! (Happy Holidays!) / З Новим
роком і Різдвом Христовим!
Urdu:آپکو بڑا دن اور نیا سال مبارک ہو
Welsh: Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda
American card, c. 1940
War-related, c. 1943
Rust Craft, c. 1950
Snow in the Netherlands
Christmas card Frances Brundage
Christmas tree market
Christmas card with embroidery
Santa Claus clothes
^ Goodall, Paul (2011). "A
Christmas Card" (PDF).
Rosicrucian Digest (1): 41–45. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
^ McLean, Adam (1979). "A
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^ a b "
Christmas Card". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 15 June
Christmas card sold for record price BBC News. Retrieved 12 June
^ György Buday, George Buday (1992). The history of the Christmas
card. p.8. Omnigraphics, 1992
^ The Times (London, England), 26 November 2001, p.8 12 cards from the
original print run are said to survive: one, sent by
Henry Cole and
his wife to his grandmother, was sold in 2001 for £20,000.
^ Earnshaw, Iris (November 2003). "The History of
Inverloch Historical Society Inc. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
^ Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. ©1998 John Wiley
& Sons, Inc. p 148 ISBN 0-471-29198-6.
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^ Susie Stubbs (10 May 2013). "Small Museums #1: Manchester
Special Collections". Creative Tourist.
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^ a b Olson, James S; Abraham O Mendoza (1946). American Economic
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^ "?". Journal Sentinel. Archived from the original on 28 August
^ "?". U.S. Census Bureau.
^ Facts And Figures - GCA: The Greeting Card Association Retrieved 17
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^ Melissa McNamara (7 December 2005). "Bush 'Holiday' Cards Cause
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Christmas Card Program,
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Washington Post. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
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Woodland Trust M&S Partnership".
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^ "Merry Christmas" in many languages
^ "Vánoce, Velikonoce". Retrieved 22 September 2010.
Christmas Cards for the Collector. London: Batsford,
1986 ISBN 0-7134-5224-2
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Buday, György. The History of the
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Christmas Cards: From the 1840s to the 1940s. Princes
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to
BBC Devon News Story of the first commercial
Christmas card, including
picture. Retrieved 2 January 2006.
BBC December 3, 2005: First
Christmas card sold for £8,469. Retrieved
2 January 2006.
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