I dunno, I find receiving a card in the mail to be so special and rewarding. With the level of technology nowadays, receiving something other than a bill in the postal mail is such a nice feeling. That person felt you were worth the cost of a postage stamp, a written message, a kind sentiment of sorts. Perhaps this love of vintage communication feeds my love for Christmas cards and sending them to my friends and family. I know e-cards are “free” for the most part, but they get lost with all the rest of the spam and rarely get opened the way a physical card does. But do you know the history of this Christmas tradition around the world and why we send them? Let’s open the Christmas tradition vault shall we….

Christmas cards
Christmas cards

So, When did We Start Sending Christmas Cards?

The tradition of sending Christmas cards dates all the way back to the mid 1800’s when Sir Henry Cole in London UK commissioned an artist to create a greeting for him to send forth to his family, friends, and work associates. He thought it would be a way to convey happy sentiments in wishing them a wonderful and joyful holiday. The design featured a family with multiple generations blessed with food, wine, and other good things.

Traditional Christmas Cards
Traditional Christmas Cards

Fun Christmas Card Facts:

  • The first Christmas card designs were not wintry, festive or religious! They were whimsical folklore characters as fairies, gnomes, and sprites, amidst a bed of flowers. The purpose was to remind folks that Spring wasn’t too far away.
  • The invention of postcards hindered the production of Christmas cards in the 1800’s. However, the gorgeous Victorian greeting cards made a comeback in the 1920’s.
  • Hallmark Cards, founded in the USA in 1913, began commercially selling beautiful Christmas cards giving the product a booming introduction in North America.
  • The start of the first world war created a huge demand for Christmas cards. Families bought the cards in abundance to send to their beloved men fighting the battle overseas. It was this surge in the market that truly placed Christmas Cards within the season’s traditions and we have never looked back.
  • “Official” Christmas Card sending and spreading seasonal greetings began in the 1840’s with Queen Victoria’s design and sentiments being sent to chosen recipients.
  • The White House traditionally sends Christmas cards every year wishing for peace, health and happiness for the season. This Oval Office tradition began with President Calvin Coolidge in 1927. It has evolved over the centuries with Coolidge being the first to provide a written holiday statement to the nation, President Herbert Hoover to be the first to offer handwritten notes to his staff, and with President Dwight Eisenhower being the first to use the classic, but current Christmas Card format.

Christmas Card Traditions Worldwide

So besides the UK,who sold 100 MILLION Christmas cards in 2016, many other countries keep up this age-old tradition and send physical greetings and glad tidings. Here are a few international perspectives on this nostalgic and fun piece of snail mail.

Australia:

The tradition continues to thrive Down Under with Australians sending Christmas cards to colleagues, family, and friends.

In fact, Aussies spent $500 Million on greeting cards as a whole in 2016 with the highest sales being in Christmas cards in particular.

Commemorative postage stamps are available to match the Christmas spirit of your cards and can be purchased in both domestic and international denominations.

Christmas on the Beach
Christmas on the Beach

Canada:

So in Canada, we definitely partake in the tradition. Although diverse in culture and religion, Christmas cards are sent and received by all and even those who don’t celebrate enjoy receiving a seasonal greeting of peace and joy.

In 2016, Canadians purchased 171 Million Christmas cards! That is 28% of greeting card sales for the year! It is such a wonderful tradition that it is great to see so many people still partaking in spreading cheer to others.

Canada as well releases a special set of Christmas postage stamps to pair with the special greetings. They are offered in domestic, USA, and International denominations and available in books at the postal outlets.

Christmas Cards
Christmas Cards

Europe:

Collectively, Europe purchased nearly 2 billion Christmas cards last year! Now, that does include those from the UK, but what a great number of greetings shared with the world.

In the countries that aren’t as religious, patrons tend to send New Year’s Cards instead of Christmas Cards, wishing family and friends a prosperous and healthy new year.

Europe jumped on the Christmas Card bandwagon shortly after 1900. The engraved card in the British Museum depicting scenes from Charles Dickens’ famous story “The Christmas Carol” prompted such enthusiasm to the tradition that countries opted to take part, especially Germany.

Christmas cards
Christmas cards

Christmas Letters

Some enjoy taking the Christmas card tradition a step further with a crafted and well-thought letter detailing the happenings in their family over the year. A more time-consuming option, the Christmas letter is a nice piece of mail to receive full of news, wishes, and hope.

Depending on who you speak with, Christmas letters are either welcomed or received with lukewarm reactions. I personally enjoy receiving them and hearing about friends and family; however, others may find them to be boring recounts of that family’s year. I know that I enjoy them as I also find them more personal than a card from a box of 24 with the same caption. But that is just me. The tradition of the Christmas letter isn’t as old as the cards, but have been around for a couple of centuries.

Christmas letter
Christmas letter

As you can see this cheery and seasonal tradition has been adding a touch of festive sweetness to households for centuries. And although technology has advanced in the way of life of this 21st century, it is sometimes nice to take a step back and savour simple pleasures and vintage joys.

Christmas Card Traditions Around the World
Christmas Card Traditions Around the World

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