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Season’s Greetings: 180 years of the Christmas card


In a bid to get more ‘ordinary’ people to use the newly-formed Post Office, the Penny Post was introduced by Sir Henry Cole, a senior civil servant, in 1840. Just three years later, Sir Henry also had the bright idea of creating a Christmas card which people could post to their friends and family to celebrate the Christmas season.

Designed by Cole’s friend: J. C. Horsley, a thousand copies were printed and offered for sale at a shilling a time (rather too expensive for the average family).

As Christmas became popularised in the Victorian era, the demand for Christmas cards grew, especially in Christian countries. Often depicting traditional festive scenes and motifs including mistletoe and holly, sleighs, snowy scenes and Father Christmases, card images have now evolved to include family portraits, jokes, poems, cityscapes, and even advertisements. 

A survey carried out by Oxfam last year found that eight out of ten British adults feel that a card is the most appropriate form of greeting at Christmas. So, put away those mobiles and pick up the pen - Christmas cards bring a welcome personal touch to the festive season!

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