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Why We Send Christmas Cards

The History Of Christmas Cards

The custom of sending Christmas cards started in the UK in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. He was a civil servant (Government worker) who was very interested in the new 'Public Post Office' and wondered how it could be used more by ordinary people.

Sir Henry had the idea of Christmas Cards and with his friend John Horsley, who was an artist, they designed the first card and sold them for 1 shilling each. The card had three panels. The outer two showed people caring for the poor and the centre panel was a family having a large Christmas dinner! Some people didn't like the card because it showed a child being given a glass of wine!

As printing methods improved, Christmas cards became much more popular and were produced in large numbers from about 1860. In 1870 the cost of sending a post card, and also Christmas cards, dropped to half a penny. This meant even more people were able to send cards.

When sending cards first became popular they usually had pictures of the Nativity scene on them. In late Victorian times, robins (an English bird) and snow-scenes became popular because the postmen in that time were nicknamed 'Robin Postmen' because of the red uniforms they wore. Snow-scenes were popular because they reminded people of the very bad winter that happened in 1836.

An engraved card by the artist William Egley, who illustrated some of Charles Dickens's books, is on display in the British Museum. By the early 1900s, the custom had spread over Europe and had become especially popular in Germany.

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