For more than 175 years, people connect to friends and family by sending holiday cards
The holidays are around the corner and with stinkin' covid slowing everything down, it's not too early to think about your holiday cards.
But before we jump into what your cards will look like this year, let's consider how this long-standing tradition of sending cards began. The British postal system introduced the first stamp in 1840. Dubbed "Penny Post," this method of affixing a penny stamp to a piece of post allowed an inexpensive and accessible way to circulate letters.
This created a problem for popular Henry Cole, a patron of the arts and supporter of the new postal system. He corresponded with many and no longer had the time to respond to their letters or send a large number of folks in his social circle a handwritten letter at Christmas time.
Cole asked artist friend, J.C. Horsley, to design an image of a family celebrating the holiday around a table surrounded by people helping the poor. Cole printed one thousand copies of Horsley's illustration on ridged cardboard to create the first Christmas card. And much like today, it featured a generic Christmas and New Year's greeting with a personalized "To" line. His friends and family adopted the idea of a way to save time.
Once the tradition gained mass appeal, sending cards became an integral part of celebrating the holidays and expanded beyond Christmas to other holidays such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year's. The greetings remained special due to the card's artistic qualities. People began to collect them.
Like Cole, we're all busy and looking for a way to connect with friends and family in a meaningful way. We want it to be special, meaningful and a break from today's turbo-paced, digital world. There's something about the tradition that creating a holiday post on social media just won't cut it. Thankfully we're not sending one thousand cards.
For more history on Christmas cards, check out Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins and this article by Smithsonian Magazine: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/history-christmas-card-180957487/