I love the first six words of this title, does anyone know why? It refers
to a famous song that has recently been remade by Carrie Underwood… I
will tell you the answer at the end of this post!
When Henry Cole, a London businessman decided to create the first Christmas
card, he is given credit for this undertaking in 1843. He originated this
card idea to his fellow business connections. Then, three years later,
it became a tradition or custom having spread itself around in big circles.
During English postal reform, 1846, this cost only one penny to send a
Christmas card to someone.
The very first card was commissioned by Henry Cole to the designer/artist,
John Calcott Horsley, of the Royal Academy of Arts (Fine Arts). There were
three panels on this first select card, two panels that held two of the
oldest Christmas traditions. These are also British in origin, “Feeding
the Hungry” and “Clothing the Needy.” In the middle of this tri-fold
card were the simple words, “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You.”
This message is still one of the most popular ones, on Christmas cards, of
all time. The Hallmark Historical Collection of Cards has only two copies
of the “First Christmas Card,” along with over 100,000 printed artifacts
from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
When researching this lovely subject, which gives me special memories of
different styles, I learned that the cards do reflect the current times.
During the Depression years, there were American flags and wishes or
hopes for “better times.” During the War Periods, the words “Across the
Miles” and “Missing You,” became quite popular.
During the more modern “Cold War times” there was an increase of sharpened
wit and a wider demand for more humorous Christmas cards.
Throughout all years, the most popular Christmas card of all time would
be one with angels or the Nativity scene. The Baby Jesus in a Manger is
a sight that means so much to the Christians that are celebrating the
birthday of the Son of God.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s the designs reflected the times again, with
Flower Children, Peace Symbols and the First Manned Moon Landing. The
creative artists worked the Christmas message into the designs. I seem
to remember during this period of time, my parents ordering their
Christmas cards from UNICEF. One particular card’s design had the Peace
dove with its olive branch and the words, “Peace on Earth” on the outside
and the enclosed message being: “Goodwill to Men. Happy New Year.”
In the early 1980’s, a surge for a new sports-oriented society drove the
card designers or artists to depict Santa in a jogging suit with running
shoes on. This was our “fitness craze” beginning! I remember the cards
that my parents received including a relaxed Santa and a reindeer on the
beach in an old-fashioned red longjohn looking bathing suit. Maybe my
memory is playing tricks on that one! Ha Ha! There have been cards with
such product placement as Coca Cola or Budweiser beers, maybe some
other countries had ales or liquor, as in a toast given to celebrate
the upcoming New Year. Of course, there are the popular children’s
cartoon characters and current animated movies that make it on the
annual Christmas cards being sent out.
There have also, throughout the television era, (which it is still
going on, right?) “spoofs” on the T.V. shows and commercials were
worked into the Christmas card department! With new innovations, and
different accessibilities being included, there are certainly Braille
Christmas and other holiday cards to be purchased. I know the man down
the hallway, David, told me he cherishes “hearing” from his blind friends
he made in the Columbus School for the Blind. He also appreciates his
family members who order these special cards. He has an orange cat who
likes to try to sneak into my apartment that I told David he reminds
me of Garfield! I asked him if he had any residual eyesight when he
was younger, he answered he loved Garfield in the Sunday comics
when he was in elementary school. He is “nearly blind” he says but
is able to tap his way around the apartment building using his cane
and has a woman who comes in to help him once a week, doing his
laundry and she (Linda) put up a Christmas tree for him. I peeked
in and told him when he gets a Braille card to please bring it
down, since I had struggled with that course while in the Master’s
program at OSU. (I have an A average but received a “C-” in this
course, due to not being able to go beyond Elementary level in
my typing Braille. That heavy typewriter and taking the tests
in Braille, was almost the “death of me!”
The various holidays celebrated around the world have been shown in our
Christmas cards. My cousin, Heather, married a Jewish man in the 90’s,
so from that point on, we sent both a Christian card and a Jewish one
celebrating Hanukkah. My parents also had friends, the Lezbergs, from
when I was in third grade through their retirement, who received the
general box of holiday card, that was before the Jewish individual
cards were bought for Jerry, Heather’s husband and then, one sent
to Dad’s good NASA friend, Herb, and his family. I am not sure if
there is a timeline for when Kwanzaa cards came into being, I did
not see this in the articles I read. I am sure there is a historical
reference somewhere for this!
I wonder, as some of my friends have recently discussed this subject,
will technology take away the fun and custom of sending Christmas
cards? I know you can send e-cards and email family newsletters.
There are also, “walls” on Facebook, where you can post a general
“Happy Holidays” or “Enjoy the Festivities!”
But, I hope and truly believe there will be some of us that will
still buy the boxes of Christmas cards, sit down and address them,
write a personal message, possibly write a family newsletter,
copy this off to send in numbers or like I do, write each family
a personal note on Christmas decorated stationery. Which I enclose
in each of the cards I send off with Christmas stamps and little
seasonal stickers sealing them closed. Do you know why it is worth
the effort? To me it is so special and I get teary-eyed to see
the letters and cards coming to me. I feel like I am having a
“visit” with them, different from the phone calls and the
hurried notes that sometimes get written on birthday and
There is something “magical” about Christmas
cards, or is it my age?
What do you think about this age-old tradition? Is it
going “by the wayside?”
I will make one more appeal or declaration Why it should
not be discontinued, this holiday tradition has managed
to “weather the storms” of wars, economic hard times, and
social changes, including more cultural beliefs and
embracing the changes.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, those six words start the
song, “Do Re Mi” from “The Sound of Music!” I feel that
Carrie Underwood did a sweet, innocent portrayal of a
nun who falls for Captain Von Trapp. She sang every bit
as well as Julie Andrews and I know this is almost
“blasphemous,” but I enjoyed it better than any other
portrayal of Maria. This is also, a true story, which I
read while in elementary school and my Grandmother Mattson,
who came to America from Germany, encouraged me to read.
It is okay if you are on a totally opposite side from my
way of thinking or have a different take on this custom of
exchanging cards… Really, it is!
Let me know!
Hugs to All and no stamp needed!