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How Did The Tradition of Sending Christmas Cards Start

Updated on April 10, 2016
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?

See results

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


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    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      15 months ago from USA

      Larry, We used to send out about that many too. We've cut way down and so has everyone that we cut from our list. Postage costs play a role.. Sending Christmas wishes on Facebook has something to do with it too and I agree that the costs of cards has risen also.

      Thanks for reading and commenting on the hub.

    • Larry Fish profile image

      Larry W Fish 

      15 months ago from Raleigh

      So interesting Barbara, reading how the Christmas card sending got started. I have often wondered about that. My wife and I used to send about 30 cards now we send maybe 10. Nice cards really are expensive and the cost has played into it. Really enjoyed your article.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      3 years ago from USA

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

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      3 years ago from USA

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

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 

      3 years 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

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      3 years ago from Texas

      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

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

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

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      4 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

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

    • peachpurple profile image


      4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

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

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

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

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      4 years ago from Ljubljana

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

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

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

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Fascinating history!!! And the season approaches!

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

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

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      4 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 imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

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

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      4 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 imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

      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.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      4 years ago from 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 imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

      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.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      4 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 imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

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

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 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 imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

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

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      4 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! ;-)


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