Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Christmas Cards, why do we do it?




Each year after spending a whole evening writing out Christmas cards I swear that the following I'll stop or just send virtual cards, but then I get to the beginning of December and, the sheer warmth of the Christmas spirit takes over and I just can't help myself. They are an expense that this year we should avoid, as the Husband has been made redundant from his 'job for life' at the BBC (so if anyone out there needs a media Credit Manager get in touch pronto), but I know how much I love to receive them in the post. They are a way of communicating with friends you don't often see, a way of sharing your news on a yearly basis and quite frankly some are a work of art. I've gone for quite a religious theme this year, though I'll admit I got them last January in a gorgeous little gift shop in Oxford during the sales.

Christmas cards are as much a part of the Festive period as Turkey or mince pies or brussel sprouts, I remember as a child counting meticulously how many I'd received as compared to the rest of my family. Now people do seem to be letting go of this tradition in favour of the online version, which saddens me. I am an advocate of tradition and will definitely be instilling this in Matilda. Christmas is a time for rituals and this is one that is so reassuring and exciting, each day bringing brightly coloured envelopes bearing good cheer.





Christmas Cards were first produced commercially and sent in the post in London in 1843, before that people wrote hand written notes delivered in person. The celebrated Innovator Sir Henry Cole who oversaw the building of the V & A as well as developing the postal system, commissioned a respected Illustrator John Calcott Horsley to design a card so he could send to friends and business associates to wish them a 'Merry Christmas'. 'Merry' in those days signified 'blessed'.1000 were printed at the time and sold for 1 schilling each, 12 are still in existence and remain in a private collections.



Queen Mary, amongst many others, was an avid collector of Christmas cards which are all now housed in the British Library. By 1880 Christmas card production was huge business, many believed it would be a passing fad but luckily for us that was not meant to be. Unbeknownst to me Religious images were introduced much later, images of whimsical children and fairies were much more popular during the Nineteenth Century. These days anything goes but I still like a traditional, vintage looking card with a good splattering of glitter spilling out of the envelope when its opened.

Will you be sending Christmas cards this year?