Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Traditions: Christmas Cards

Are your Christmas cards in the mail yet? Or have you, like many others today, given up on this tradition and sent online cards instead? As the cost of postage rises and lives get busier and busier, many people have found alternatives to the snail mail delivery of greetings. 

My mother loved Christmas cards, and mailed well over 100 every year. I remember 3 cent stamps on the cards, so it wasn't a terrible expense to send them in those days. Today, at almost half a dollar a card for stamps, we think a little more carefully about our address lists! Even accounting for inflation the cost is much higher than it was 50 years ago.

In the realm of Christmas traditions, cards were a latecomer. The first card was sent only 171 years ago by Sir Henry Cole, a native of Bath, England. He was living in London at the time and commissioned John Callcot Horsley to design a card for him to send to his friends during the holidays. Some frowned at the convivial glass raised by the images on the card, but others pointed out that the sides of the card depicted the other, more charitable side of the holiday. 

The trend caught on quickly despite objections, and by 1873 Christmas cards had made their way to America. Louis Prang, a native of Silesia and later a Boston lithographer, was already well known for his line of fine prints of Massachusetts buildings and his war maps created during the Civil War and printed in newspapers across he country. He added a line of Christmas greeting cards in 1873, and went on to create cards for other holidays. Prang later moved in Los Angeles, where he died in 1909. His gravestone reads 
"The great color printer. A seeker for truth and beauty. Educator. Idealist." He is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts.

Cards have changed over the years; the early postcard format gave way to the folded card and envelope; humorous, patriotic, religious and secular jostle box-to-box in the card aisle. There are cards for specific loved ones, cards that apologize for being late, pop-up cards and musical cards and those designed to hold monetary gifts. Annual letters began to be included by some people, and others began collecting cards. 

While the sending of greeting cards has seen a decline, my mailbox still sees a few each day during this season and I have to say, I enjoy receiving them. It makes me think of the senders and our connection, and to appreciate the time it took them the send my their happy wishes during this time of year. My cards have been mailed too, and probably will be for as long as I can write. It's tradition, and more than that, it reminds me of good times and good people, and always brings a smile.

Some vintage cards and other images I like, from Vintage Printable. Do visit this great site for excellent vintage images that can be downloaded and printed for free. What a gift!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Nance said...

My cards are in the mail. Every year I say "this will be the last year" but it hasn't stopped yet. I mailed out almost 60. My sister printed her own photos on a postcard and mailed them. I think I'll try that next year. I'm headed out, right now, to check out to Vintage Printable.

Jenny said...

I love sending & receiving Christmas cards. I send out about 75 but I do hand deliver many of them when I make my Christmas visits throughout December. I love displaying them in a swag over my window every winter too.

annie said...

I love cards, but limit myself to less than 10. At church we have a wooden box, with alphabet letters, sort of like an old library card catalog. We put cards for each other throughout the season in the slots, and take them home after service. It saves on tons of postage and is good fellowship without hardship for some. Hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

Quinn said...

Usually I design a New Year's card to send to a few folks. Nothing fancy, usually one special photograph, and the local CVS does a good job printing them on-site.
Thank you for that fantastic link!! Lots of fun there.

Sue said...

I can't quite seem to give up the Christmas cards, though many have. I've noticed that we receive about half of what we used to, but I still love sending them out and staying in touch with special friends all over the country.

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas. I just posted my annual Christmas Eve story, if you feel like giving it a read…



A wonderful Christmas post. Loved all the graphics also the history. I think about not sending out cards every year but then when I start receiving from folks that I have known forever I know I will never give up the practice. -- barbara

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