Origins of Christmas Cards

Christmas Cards have always been a tradition for me. From getting them from family, to getting mum or dad to buy nearly 30 and write them all, for my primary school classmates, every year for 7 years. I’m sure they were glad when I stopped. But that’s the thing, it wasn’t just me. We were all getting around 30 Christmas Cards every year from classmates alone, which tells you it’s a tradition for nearly everyone. But something so big, not a lot of people know where it came about. It was just a matter of it always having being done. In this article however, we are going to give a little history lesson, and let you all in on the origins of the humble Christmas Card.

Before Christmas Cards became a thing, people had been giving wood prints and etchings depicting important religious scenes at Christmas since the middle ages, so the tradition certainly goes back a lot further than the Cards themselves.

But Christmas Cards as we know them, come from the mind of a man named Sir Henry Cole. In 1843 he had just helped set up the new Public Record Office (which would later become the Post Office) and started to think about how ordinary people could get more use out of it.

From there, the idea for Christmas Card was born. With his friend John Horsley – who happened to be an Artist – they came up with the idea together, designing the first Christmas Card together, and selling them for 1 shilling each (12 pence or £3.02 in today’s money) it is estimated that around 1000 of them were printed and sold, with any leftovers being sold in Henry Coles own shop. Despite this however, the next Christmas Card to be produced for commercial reasons didn’t see it’s way into shops until 1848.

As for the card itself, it was a 3 panel card. The 2 outer panel cards consisted of imagery of people helping the poor. On the inside panel was the depiction of a family enjoying a large Christmas Dinner. There are still some of these Cards left in the world, however they are very rare, and as such very expensive.

During the same time, perhaps a few years later, Christmas Cards made their way over to the United States of America. However were almost a luxury item as they were so expensive, and therefore couldn’t be afforded by many people. But, during the 1860s printing methods improved, allowing Christmas Cards to be produced in even greater numbers, meaning they were even more accessible for more people, and as such became more popular. However, the tradition itself didn’t establish itself until the 1870s, which coincided coming about of coloured print (chromolithography) with this then leading to what we know and see in the shops today.

Hopefully this article has been of soe interest to you, as you now know a little bit more about where those Christmas Cards we love so much came from!

Here at we love Christmas Cards, and give one to each other every year! We want to help you be able to do the same though, and as such have our very own brochure with fantastic bespoke Christmas Card designs which you can choose from! And, we won’t just stop there, as we will will also quite happily print your cards for you. Feel free to give us a call on 028 9002 2474 to get started, or get us through email via our contact form