independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Why do we send Christmas Cards?

THE first Christmas cards were actually New Year's cards, sent by German families to each other in the 14th Century.

Messages of goodwill and religious pictures were printed on cards using woodblock and were sent to friends and neighbours wishing them "A good and blessed year".

But the first cards sent at Christmas time were those made by children in English schools in the early 18th Century.

These 'Christmas Pieces' contained rhyming messages and pieces of poetry for each child's family.

They were decorated by hand on engraved paper and were then sent home.

Today, the Christmas Pieces are extremely rare and valuable. This tradition is still in practice: have you ever made a Christmas card at school for your family?

Many people buy Christmas cards in the shops instead of making them: this idea came from Henry Cole, who lived in the UK in the 18th Century.

He had a lot of people to write Christmas greetings to and he wanted to send them all the same message.

Together with his friend John Horsley, they designed the first Christmas card in December 1843, which had pictures of people enjoying Christmas on it.

It was still quite expensive to send cards in the post however, so the Christmas card did not become popular in England until the 1860s. From there, the tradition spread to Europe and America, where printers began to mass produce cards. By the 1900s, the custom had become firmly established as a part of Christmas.

CATHERINE COLLINS

Irish Independent

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