Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Cards Old and New

Some years I just throw them out--and then feel guilty for doing that--but this year I hung up a string across our living room to hold all the lovely Christmas cards we received from family and friends. And then, a few days ago, I added a second string because the first one was full.

Some of the cards are silly--smiling snowmen, grimacing gingerbread men. Some of the cards are serious--creches, stars, and wise men. About half of them are photos of friends from far away.

The history of the Christmas card goes back to the Victorian era. The BBC has an interesting article on Christmas traditions that originated during this time period and has this to say about the cards:
In 1843 Henry Cole commissioned an artist to design a card for Christmas. The illustration showed a group of people around a dinner table and a Christmas message. At one shilling each, these were pricey for ordinary Victorians and so were not immediately accessible. However the sentiment caught on and many children - Queen Victoria's included – were encouraged to make their own Christmas cards. In this age of industrialisation colour printing technology quickly became more advanced, causing the price of card production to drop significantly. Together with the introduction of the halfpenny postage rate, the Christmas card industry took off. By the 1880s the sending of cards had become hugely popular, creating a lucrative industry that produced 11.5 million cards in 1880 alone. The commercialisation of Christmas was well on its way.

The oldest Christmas card -- only 10 survive today
of the original printing of 1000 cards.

Nowadays Christmas cards are hugely popular--one estimate says that there are 1.9 billion Christmas cards sent annually.

This year was a lean year for us, and as much as I love doing it, we weren't able to have cards printed to mail to friends and family. But despite that, I was able to put together a digital version of a Victorian tradition and share it with family and friends via e-mail and Facebook.


Merry Christmas to all!


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