Englishman Henry Cole gave birth to the idea of Christmas cards in 1843. Since he was too busy to write a personal holiday greeting, Cole hired well-known London artist John Calcott Horsley to design a card he could send to all his acquaintances. The cards made use of the religious symbolism of
Christmas. Panels depicted the virtues of feeding the poor and clothing the naked.
Horsley also painted sprigs of holly, the symbol of chastity and ivy, symbolic of a place where God has walked, throughout the design.
Still, the card was criticized by temperance groups because it pictured a family with wine glasses raised in a toast.
Many believe the controversy aided the popularization of the Christmas card-sending tradition. Over the years, Christmas cards have reflected the traditions and trends of society.
In the late 19th century, cards were often elaborately designed but lacking in most of the religious symbolism that is common on many of today?s cards. After the turn of the century, the card market was flooded with inexpensive European postcards that were popular for more than a decade.
In the 1920s, early Hallmark Christmas cards were often hand-painted and the art deco influence of the decade was evident in the more stylized cards.
The custom of exchanging Christmas cards with faraway friends and relatives was boosted during the war years of the 1940s. Messages like ?Missing You? and ?Across the Miles? were created especially for loved ones serving overseas. The cards of this decade also reflect advances in printing technology, such as the use of four-color printing.
Christmas cards turned modern in the 1950s with more varied artwork, colours and themes. Some cards echoed the language and style of the jazzy beat generation. An early Contemporary card showed Santa with Cold War jitters as nuclear missiles loomed over his head. The message read ?Peace on Earth.? Another card showed Santa relaxing in his easy chair watching television. Humour had been used in a limited fashion on Christmas cards of previous decades, but the 1950s established humor as a specific category.
Day-glow poster art and the psychedelic colours that were so popular in the 1960s spawned many Christmas cards with decidedly untraditional colours. Peace cards were popular.
Cards of the early 1970s celebrated achievements in space. The so-called ?me generation? and its interest in physical fitness spawned a new line of Sporting Santa cards.
A maturing, less child -oriented society created an interest in more stylish and sophisticated Christmas card art in the 1980s. And as the public slimmed down during the health craze, so did Santa. In a shift from previous decades, the jolly old St. Nick portrayed on cards of this decade is visibly thinner.
The me decade gave way to the we decade of the 1990s, bringing a renewed interest in family and home life. Christmas cards reflected this new traditionalism with old-fashioned trees, wreaths, snow-covered landscapes and other traditional design elements. There also were twists, such as environmental designs and messages.
With the capabilities of technology and the Internet, and diverse makeup of the population, Christmas cards have metamorphosed once again. Much as Henry Cole wanted to simplify his Christmas communication, so do modern-day consumers. Hallmark recognized this need and combined the two needs into one, offering electronic Christmas greetings and the ability to order and send paper Christmas cards online, as well as the traditional holiday greetings.
This article was supplied by Hallmark Cards.