How Did The Tradition of Sending Christmas Cards Start

The First Christmas Card
The First Christmas Card | Source

History of Christmas Cards

I enjoy getting a card in the mail from old friends, but the tradition seems to be fading away with the new eCards. The higher cost of postage may be hurting the tradition too.

My Mom always hung the cards around doorways and they were as much a part of Christmas as the tree and the Nativity set. I now hang them along the woodwork that goes down our open stairway. They are always so bright and add cheer during the season.

Sending Christmas cards started in 1843 by a man named Sir Henry Cole. He was a big supporter of the Public Postal system and was a civil worker. He thought sending cards would help out the post office financially by giving the common man something to receive and mail.

He and John Horsley, an artist came up with the idea. John Horsley, designed the first card. It was made with 3 panels, rather than 2. I still like the 3 paneled ones, because they can sit on the mantel.

It was much later that the first card was produced in the US. In 1875, Louis Pang created one. The idea became popular here quickly.

A Christmas Postcard circa 1900
A Christmas Postcard circa 1900 | Source

How Much Did They Cost?

The first Christmas cards were sold for what is equal to 8 cents today. Even though that doesn't sound like much at today's rates, that was a lot of money back then.

Now pre-made cards can be as much as $5 each or you can buy a cheap box at a dollar store with several cards for just $1.


1940 Christmas Card
1940 Christmas Card | Source
Christmas Cards on the Mantle
Christmas Cards on the Mantle | Source

Christmas Cards are Still Popular

Even though so many eCards are now being sent, a survey taken after the 2013 Christmas season says that 2/3 of people still send them. Sending the cards had not gone down since the 2009 survey. Higher postage rates don't seem to be stopping anyone either.

Only 6% say they plan on sending fewer cards then the year before. 80% plan on sending either the same amount or more in the coming season.

Personally, we aren't getting as many as we once did and the higher rates are keeping me from sending to those that no longer send them back.The cards are still a big part of the Christmas celebrations for me. I love to go to the mailbox and find one from a family member or friend.

I'm sure they are still helping the post office as was their original intent. People like me will not stop sending them.


Modern Christmas Card
Modern Christmas Card | Source

What is Your Favorite Part of Christmas?

  • Getting together with your family
  • The Tree and decortations
  • Parties with friends
  • Christmas food
  • The Gifts
  • Celebrating the Birth of Jesus
  • Sending and receiving cards
See results without voting

Have the Cards Changed?

Cards with popular paintings aren't as widely used as they once were. Most cards now have family photos or photos of pets.

Creating your own cards in now popular. See the accompanying videos for great ideas or get creative and come up with some of your own designs.

How to Make a Pop-up Christmas Card

How To Make a Christmas Ornament Card

How to Make a 3-D Christmas Card

More by this Author


24 comments

DrBillSmithWriter profile image

DrBillSmithWriter 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

Very interesting subject. Caught my attention. We say each year we are going to stop, but always seem to send them. Very timely subject. Thanks for sharing! ;-)


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 2 years ago from USA Author

DrBill, Thanks for reading. I keep cutting down every year, but just don't want to give up the tradition.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Well that answers a question I never thought of. Now I'm ready if anyone ever asks. Interesting topic, Barbara. Thanks for the info.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 2 years ago from USA Author

Bill, I don't think the question will ever be asked, but it is a bit of trivia. Thanks for reading.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

I enjoy getting those cards that also give you something like an ornament to hang on the tree. It is a special way to send a greeting to those you love. As you say, the dollar store offers some nice cards for a good price. I think with the price of stamps, this is a good option for many.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 2 years ago from USA Author

teaches, Thanks for your comment. I like to put in a thread crochet snowflake ornament with mine. Some years I have the time to crochet them and some years not.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 2 years ago from Northern California, USA

I never knew how sending Christmas cards got started. Interesting fact. I use to send and receive a lot of Christmas cards, but now I receive a lot of Christmas emails. I believe with the cost of cards these days, people are just trying to cut down on expenses. I do enjoy making cards and sending them out. And, now that you mention it, I should start thinking about what I'm going to do this year. I really enjoyed reading about the history of Christmas cards. I also enjoyed the videos, especially the one about how to make Christmas ornament cards that had excellent tips, especially about the heat embossing ink.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 2 years ago from USA Author

MarleneB, I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed it. I've never made my own. I should start a new tradition myself. Thanks for reading.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Good old Sir Henry and John, what would we do if we didn't have our Christmas cards? isn't it amazing how our lives change through little things, made by someone on the spur of the moment, interesting stuff!


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 2 years ago from USA Author

Nell Rose, Thanks for commenting.What is interesting is how these tradition go on and on,


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

I always like the old fashioned cards in the mail. I recall that if they weren't sealed it was a penny less to mail.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 2 years ago from USA Author

aviannovise, I had forgotten all about not sealing the envelopes, but I wonder why they were cheaper that way. Thanks for commenting.


midget38 profile image

midget38 2 years ago from Singapore

Fascinating history!!! And the season approaches!


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 2 years ago from USA Author

midget38, Thanks for reading and yes, Christmas isn't that far away anymore.


TolovajWordsmith profile image

TolovajWordsmith 23 months ago from Ljubljana

Paper cards will always have their charm! Thanks for explaining the background, it's very interesting. Merry Christmas!


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 23 months ago from USA Author

TolovajWordsmith,, Thanks for reading. You have a Merry Christmas too.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 22 months ago from Home Sweet Home

thanks for your story, at least i know now how it started


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 22 months ago from USA Author

peachpurple, Thanks for reading. Christmas cards seem to be dying out as internet Christmas wishes seem to replacing them. Postage costs don't help.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 21 months ago from Houston, Texas

Thanks for filling in some information as to how the tradition of sending Christmas cards got started. We still enjoy sending and receiving them.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 21 months ago from USA Author

Peggy, Thanks for reading. We still send them too, but not as many as we did years ago.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 11 months ago

I still send and receive Christmas Cards, it is usually to people I don't see so I send them cards jut to let them know that I am thinking of them.

Blessings and hugs and Merry Christmas


brakel2 profile image

brakel2 11 months ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Thanks for the info on Christmas cards. We send cards most years but have cut back on the number we send. This year, I bought some postcards and regular cards. Thanks for the trivia on Christmas cards to make it interesting. Have a great day. Blessings, Audrey


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 11 months ago from USA Author

Shyron, I am a little late, but have a Merry Christmas! Thanks for commenting on the hub.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 11 months ago from USA Author

brakel2, Thanks for reading the hub. My Christmas card giving is way down also. I get half of my greetings from Facebook now.

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