The History of Christmas Greeting Cards

Every holiday has traditions attached to it.  From trick-or-treating on Halloween, to eating a great meal on Thanksgiving, there seems to be a tradition for every special day of the year.  Christmas is only different, in that there are so many traditions associated with it.  One of the most popular Christmas traditions is sending greeting cards.  Like all holiday traditions, though, greeting cards themselves have a long history.

We’ve reached the point in technology where free animated ecards allow us to send and receive high-quality cards without spending any many.  But this innovation is a fairly recent one.  In fact, greeting cards came into being as a result of the shrew business acumen of a British man named Sir Henry Cole—and his entire aim was to get money!

Cole was instrumental, in the 1840s, in helping create what became known as the Penny Post.  With the Penny Post, people could mail as many letters as they wanted, all over the country, for only a penny each.  This cheap alternative to more expensive mailing services was an instant hit.  Cole knew his new system would be successful from the beginning, though, and he was planning, the entire time, to unveil something new to generate more revenue from his Penny Post.  And a few years later, he did: the first official commercial Christmas card.  Costing only a penny each to mail, the initial print run of over two thousand cards sold out within a year!

Later on in the 1800s, a more related precursor to free ecards came about: home-made cards.  Commercial cards were relatively cheap, sure, but many English citizens were so poor they couldn’t even afford to buy the cards themselves; and so they started creating them at home, using everything from old pieces of fabric, to scrap paper.  Still others, who could have afforded to purchase cards, went the home-made route for a different reason: they were protesting what they saw to be the over-commercialization of Christmas.  For many of England’s upper class, making home-made cards was a way to keep Christmas pure.

Chain stores were of course next on the innovation list, and many of those stores we still have around today: those places that take up large chunks of our area shopping malls, and who specialize in selling greeting cards for all occasions.  The early 1990s brought the first greeting card computer software, too: this software allowed users (who purchased it for a high cost, of course) to create professional-grade greeting cards at home, on their own personal computers.

The biggest innovation in the history of greetings is, of course, free ecards.  As simple a process as it is, and always has been, to purchase a card from a store and mail it, it’s even easier to pick out your own favorite free Christmas ecards and send them electronically, instantly.  Best of all, they’re completely free.