A Little History on Christmas Card Making

A Little History on Christmas Card Making

Posted Dec 12, 2016
Tags: Art History

Card making has a surprisingly longstanding history, being a popular way to share loving sentiments and well wishes for centuries dating back to the times of the ancient Chinese, as well as the ancient Egyptians, who would scribe their friendly greetings on papyrus scrolls.

Handmade greeting cards were shared around Europe in the early 1400's; the Germans were known to create woodcuttings with their New Year’s greetings and fine artworks.

The enhancement of Christmas tree decorating and even Christmas card making were officiated by Queen Victoria. She was encouraged by her German-born husband, Prince Albert to carry on with his traditional Germanic Christmas customs that had been firmly established since the early 1700’s. Illustrations of Queen Victoria and her family celebrating around adorned Christmas trees were seen in local newspaper and soon many families in Britain followed suit, embellishing their homes and trees with handmade decorations, fruits, sweet treats, candles and small gifts.

This custom of Christmas card making was made commercial by a UK man named Sir Henry Cole in 1843. He was a civil servant who’d had a hand in setting up the first of the general post offices. Utilised at the time by only the very wealthy, he wondered how they could be more available to the masses and thus introduced the widely accessible ‘Penny Post’ and later the ‘Half Penny Post’. This enabled citizens of nearly all classes to purchase their letter stamps for a simple penny or less. The inspired Sir Henry Cole, along with the help of his artistic friend John Horsley, came up with the idea to create the very first Christmas themed greeting card which would be sold for a shilling each (quite a lot in those days!) at the General Post Office. The outer panels of the artwork portray people caring for the poor whilst the inner panel features a large family enjoying a lavish Christmas feast (see the above image!). They successfully printed and sold around a thousand of these unique cards, which are now considered rare and valuable items, one of which was sold at an auction for over 30,000 pounds in 2001! Even though these cards were quite pricey and only affordable to the more wealthy Victorians at the time, the idea of Christmas card making took off and many children were encouraged to create their own.

With the age of industrialisation forging ahead, printing technology advancements began to make card manufacturing easier and a lot more affordable for the everyday person.  And so the Christmas card industry became a highly popular and lucrative industry by the 1880’s.

Nowadays, there are literally billions of commercial Christmas cards sold around the world every year with a diverse variety from traditional to humorous, pop-up, musical, e-cards and the list of goes on.

With so many mass-produced varieties in every style, why not try your hand at creating your very own personalised Christmas cards? Hand making your cards is an enjoyable and creatively inspired way to get into the jolly spirit of the festive season.  And what better way to share your festive wishes and seasons greeting with friends and family than a crafty and original card that can be treasured for a lifetime, made by yours truly.

Check out some of our fun lessons on Christmas card making to get you started!


Book: Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, By Charles Panati
Image source: Firstchristmascard Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons                

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