The End of the Christmas Card

Over the past few years I have noticed a reduction in the volume of Christmas cards we receive. I wondered if the use of social media combined with the global recession, which allegedly began in 2006, is the reason for the decline in this old custom.

Horsley Christmas Card (Image source:

The first Cole and Horsley Christmas Card (Image source:

When did Christmas cards start as a tradition anyway? I didn’t know about this myself until I started to do a little research for my self-published book, The Foundling. It seems that a bright spark who worked for the UK post office, Sir Henry Cole, decided that he needed to create a reason for the ordinary citizen to use the new “penny post,” which commenced in 1840.

The actual card itself (Image source:

The actual card itself on display at the British Postal Museum and Archive (Image source:

With the help of his artist friend, John Horsley, Cole created the first Christmas card. It didn’t go down so well with the ordinary folk though. The picture on the inside of the card was of a wealthy family dining, and a young child enjoying a “sup” of wine. On either side of the main picture are panels depicting poorer families. Yes, I don’t get it as well. I am sure it meant something to the Victorians.

So it seems the life and times of the Christmas Card are nearing an end. I still send cards, but there was a time when I sent 160, it’s about half that now. I wonder how many professions have been effected by this decline? Artists, mailmen, and the list could go on.

I know it is environmentally sound to cease sending Christmas cards, save a tree and all that, but I always feel a twinge of sadness that the older ways are being lost. There is a colorfulness to the house and a crescendo of excitement as the cards come in. I don’t think the tradition of sending holiday cards will disappear overnight, but social media such as Twitter and Facebook have changed how we send birthday and holiday greetings.

Here’s one of my favorite Christmas Cards of all time. Thanks to Terry Gilliam of Monty Python for this: Terry Gilliam’s The Christmas Card


4 thoughts on “The End of the Christmas Card

  1. I just decided this year to send cards again – I miss the personal greetings and sense of connection. Ecards just don’t cut it, and enough with the PC reasons for not sending. I love them!

  2. Great post–I love the Wise Men chasing after the star, and the long arm reaching out to grab the carolers! I remember being surprised when an “early adopter,” tech-savvy type in graduate school told me that he never sent Christmas cards anymore, but did it all by email. That was (gulp) twenty years ago. He’s probably sending bulk Twitter greetings now. But there’s a lot to be said for actual handwriting on a beautiful card. The ones I find sad are the cards with the signature machine-printed instead of handwritten.

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