Who started the Christmas card tradition?

We are all familiar with the tradition of sending Christmas cards, and it’s a tradition we all love! Nothing beats putting pen to paper. And wishing your family and friends all the best over the festive season and for the new year. But how did this tradition start? We’ve been digging through the archives to find the man who started it all!

Henry Cole, a civil servant in 1843 found he was much too busy to write to all his family, friends and acquaintances over the Christmas period. So he commissioned artist friend John Horsley to design an illustrated card for him to send. A thousand of the cards were created and hand painted by the professional colourer William Mason.

The card depicted three generations of a Victorian family drinking a toast to the card recipient. With a greeting over the top “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you”.

The first Christmas card

Once Cole had sent his cards, any leftovers were sold at a shopping emporium in Bond Street for one shilling each.

During this time, the cards were classes as too expensive, so their popularity did not grow until the 1860s.


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