Believe it or not, Christmas 180 or so years ago looked very different to what it does now. Before the Victorian period, beautiful handmade cards were a rarity and Christmas was a much more sombre affair. It was Henry Cole, prominent civil-servant, inventor and founder of the V&A Museum, who, in having too many friends with whom to correspond over the Christmas period, sent the first bespoke Christmas card. A supporter of the penny postal system, Cole commissioned an artist friend to create a sketch of his family celebrating and helping the poor which was then printed on cardboard and reproduced thousands of times. Each greeting card had a generic message inside and room for Cole to personalise it for the recipient. Hence, the first bespoke Christmas card was born.
It took another 10 years or so to really catch on but when it did, it became an integral part of Victorian society. In the late 1800s, the artistry of these beautiful handmade cards reached its pinnacle and they became collectors items, heavily sought after and admired.
So what happened?
Mass production and competition lowered prices and unfortunately quality. Flimsy cards with terrible designs flooded the market and people stopped caring. Why pay the price of a stamp when you can write it for free on Facebook?
It’s time we brought back the Christmas Card in all its glory. It’s time we sent our loved ones a little Christmas note in a beautiful handmade card, a card that they can keep, collect or frame. In the this world of COVID, where we’ve spent so much time apart (or time on Zoom) let’s avoid the generic Season’s Greetings and tell our friends and family how much we care.