Christmas Cards Facts

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Did you ever wonder who sent the first Christmas Card? The first commercial Christmas card is believed to have been designed and printed in London in 1843, the same year Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol”. Previously, people had exchanged handwritten Christmas greetings, first in person and later via post.

By 1822, homemade Christmas cards had become the bane of the U.S. postal system. That year, the Superintendent of Mails in Washington, D.C., complained of the need to hire sixteen extra mailmen. Fearful of future bottlenecks, he petitioned Congress to limit the exchange of cards by post, concluding, “I don’t know what we’ll do if it keeps on.”

In 1843, Sir Henry Cole, a wealthy British businessman, wanted a card he could proudly send to friends and professional acquaintances to wish them a “merry Christmas.” He asked his friend John Callcott Horsley to design it and Horsley produced a triptych. Each of the two side panels depicted a good deed-clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. The centerpiece featured a party of adults and children, with plentiful food and drink. Puritans immediately denounced the card, since it showed people drinking in the family party. But with most people the idea was a great success and the Christmas card quickly became very popular.

The card’s inscription read: “merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you.” “Merry” was then a spiritual word meaning “blessed,” as in “merry old England.” A batch of 1,000 of the cards were printed on a lithograph stone then hand-coloured by a professional colourer named Mason. Of the original one thousand cards, only twelve exist today in private collections. In December 2005, one of these Christmas cards was sold for

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