Vintage Christmas Greeting Cards
There is still a bit of the old-fashioned in many of us. We still love to do things the old way, claiming it’s still the best way to get things done. We reminisce on the past and look back to occasions like Christmas with nostalgia, always seeking ways to re-live the past.
Come Christmastime, we still will love to do things the old-fashioned way, at least some of the things. Remember the aroma and glow of burning logs (real logs), the walls draped with holly and ivy, how every member of the household decorates a real live Christmas tree lit by proper candles, singing festive songs together, and best of all, sending out season’s greetings with handwritten warm messages inscribed in beautiful calligraphy.
Those were wonderful times when family members had quality time which they spent together, without the distraction of technology . . . a world without mobile phones, computers, iPad’s, and video game consoles. It was a time when only a handful of the population had a television set, a telephone, or even a car.
Today, technology has made many lose sight of such beautiful times. Even sending out Christmas cards has become the exception rather than the rule. But some of us still possess that stubborn streak of not giving in totally to the digital ways of communicating season’s greetings. We still opt for sending out real cards, through a real post office with its traditional delivery service, inscribed with our handwritten messages showing it was sent with true love that’s characteristic of the season.
Nothing ‘cold’, impersonal, or digital…
A Brief History of Christmas Cards
According to Wikipedia, presenting Christmas cards officially began with Queen Victoria in the 1840s. Illustrations were basically portraits of the royal family, and themes generally reflected the significant royal events of the year.
Subsequently giving out cards at Christmas became the norm and this continued for over 150 years until it started to wane towards the end of the 20th century.
The very first commercially produced Christmas card (now a vintage collector’s item) appeared on the market in the 19th century. Its illustration was created by John Callcott Horsely and it highlighted the general merrymaking mood of the festive season. It consisted of a sketched illustration of a family, eating, drinking, and merry making in the spirit of the season.
Favourite Themes of Traditional Greeting Cards
Vintage cards are characterised by beautiful happy scenes with simple natural images or illustrations that tell a story.
The most popular illustrations on these old fashioned cards were those of the well-loved postman commonly called the “robins”, outfitted in red with a sack full of Christmas cards slung over his shoulder. They delivered seasonal cards for the British Post Office in the very early hours of Christmas morning despite the frosty and blistering cold. Their services cost round about a shilling.
Popular vintage greeting card designs came in form of postcards, prints, photographs, sketched designs, and illustrations with themes which include:
- Flowers and foliage; natural vegetation like trees and forests
- Fairies, elves, etc.; a touch of fantasy
- Fanciful designs and embroidered patterns on lace
- Sentimental images of young children playing in the snow; mostly impoverished and hungry
- Images of animals; robins, dogs, cats
- Fanciful designs of the seasons; autumn and winter
And during the two World Wars, themes were more of:
- Patriotic illustrations
- Risqué humour
- Cartoon illustrations and graphics
- Nostalgic images, sentimental pictures, and religious images
In 1953, a few years after the 2nd World War, the United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first official White House Christmas card. The cards show White House scenes as rendered by prominent American artists of the time.
For Today’s Vintage Card Lovers
Those well-crafted detailed Christmas card designs and themes have now become sought-after vintage items, unique and rare 'relics of the past'.
And as the popularity and demand for vintage Christmas cards is on the rise, production of both regular and post card copies is evolving with changing tastes, printing techniques, and e-Card technologies.
But isn’t it amazing that today, most people pay no mind to sending out Christmas cards. They’ll tell you “why go looking for cards at the stores, standing in line endlessly just to purchase a pack of greeting cards, when I can design anything I wish, by myself, with my computer, AND send it off by electronic mail at the click of a button”!
Fortunately, vintage art lovers who still cherish the untainted simple art of traditional cards don’t have to conform to today habit of sending off ‘digital cards’, popularly known as eCard(s). They can still get to buy those cards with designs and illustrations that are almost a hundred years old from online stores that know how history is important to many of us.
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