Why Do We Send Christmas Cards? A Brief History on the Holiday Tradition

on December 09, 2020

“Tis the season to be jolly…”

The Christmas season is on, and no epidemic can stop us from playing Mariah Carey or Wham! while putting up the Xmas tree.

With all the baubles on their places and the star on the top, the only thing missing in the picture is you. And what are you doing? You’re sitting with a cup of mulled wine in your red jumper and writing Christmas cards.

Have you ever wondered or asked yourself: Why do we send Christmas cards? Or how it all started?

Every year, we still send Christmas cards, just like our parents did

This holiday tradition actually has an interesting history that may explain why many people continue to do it today.

When Did Sending Christmas Cards Start?

For over a century now, it has become customary for people to send Christmas cards during the holidays. This practice dates back to the 19th century in Victorian England.

Sending letters has long been a cultural practice in England, and after the country introduced its Penny Post in 1843. This new system allowed senders to send a letter or card for a penny, which drove everyone to send more letters during Christmas. In the Victorian England era, it was considered impolite not to respond to mail.

However, a man called Sir Henry Cole was busy and did not have enough time to go through all his correspondences.

Who Commissioned the First Christmas Cards?

Cole was the first person to commission the Christmas card as a response to his dilemma of not being able to respond to all his unanswered letters. To make sure he could send a message back to all the unanswered letters he received, Cole commissioned John Calcott Horsley to design him a card that he could easily mail to his recipients.

First Christmas Card
The first Christmas card sent out by John Horsley in 1843.
Image: Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The finished card featured a gathering of children and adults who were raising their glasses to a toast. The caption reads “A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to You,” and contained a salutation “To:,” to personalise each card. Only about 1000 or fewer copies of Horsley’s Christmas card were printed and sold.

Thus, going back to the question: Why do we send Christmas cards? Originally, the idea started because of Cole’s lack of time to write a personal message to each of his recipients. However, over time, the tradition has grown into a meaningful practice to many. The card’s tangibility and personalisation options available today make card-sending one of the best ways to show your loved ones that they matter.

Did the Victorians Send Christmas Cards?

Victorian Christmas Card

After Cole’s genius idea became known to others, many people saw how sending Christmas cards could save them tons of time. Victorians started to copy the idea and send their version of the Christmas card. Most Victorian card designs featured robins, Christmas trees, Father Christmas, the holly, and others. Up until today, these icons continued to be used in cards as they exude a sense of nostalgia that people look forward to every year.

Did you already send out all of the Christmas cards to your friends and family? Maybe it’s not too late for you, still. You can always check what the last day for sending Christmas cards to ensure they get sent on time is!

Also, if there’s still time, browse through our selection of Christmas cards. You can find a lot of nostalgic ones :)