Christmas Card Printing

The true history of one of the holidays' print design essentials.

The Christmas season sees more greeting card printing than any other. After all, the Christmas card was the original greeting card. “It's tradition,” as my grandmother always says. But where did this particular tradition start?

In its earliest days, the Christmas card wasn't printed, but handmade, usually by artisans commissioned by well-to-do families to generate some Christmas cheer. Originally, Christmas cards served as symbols of the wealth and status enjoyed by those who could afford to have the most beautiful and elaborate designs produced.

Christmas card printing began in 1843, with a shrewd British businessman named Sir Henry Cole. Cole wanted a slick, professional-looking card that he could send to friends and acquaintances (read: “business contacts”!), and so he commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley to create a festive design. This first commercially produced Christmas card was printed in a lot of 1000.

Although the history books don't say so explicitly, I think the subtext is clear: the first recorded case of Christmas card printing was a gentle business promotion strategy. Sir Henry Cole saw the good will and cheer effected by Christmas cards, and decided to use it to help him strengthen his network of business contacts. And so a new holiday tradition was born!

After that first Christmas in 1843, Christmas card printing caught on like rum and eggnog. Soon, businesses weren't just printing cards to send to customers and contacts, Christmas cards were being printed for sale to the average consumer. The day of the fabulously ornate Christmas greeting was at an end, and now everyone in Europe and overseas in America could by penny Christmas cards being imported from Germany.

Today, it's not just businesses that send out hundreds and often thousands of Christmas cards. Seasonal greeting cards have become a part of political printing, with the White House sending out 1.4 million in 2005 – only to the President's nearest and dearest, of course.

Even the average family can have a Christmas card list that's about a mile long. Every year, as full color printing becomes increasingly low cost, more and more people are choosing to have their cards professionally printed. This allows families to send out a unique, personalized print design to loved ones, and it saves a lot of time.

Of course, the nicer your Christmas card printing is, the more sensitive the issue of the Christmas card list becomes. Who's on the list? Who's off the list? The politics of Christmas can become so overwhelming that we forget to just relax and have a good time.

Hopefully, getting your Christmas cards printed and mailed through Hotcards will give you more time and energy to simply enjoy the season. Never forget, cards aside, presents aside, parties and dinners aside, this time of year is about being with the people you love, and making great memories with them. If you don't have time for anything else, make time for that, and as the very first printed Christmas card said, “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You!”

I'm guessing it was a fresh sentiment at the time.


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