Christmas Cards: A Brief History

Plus, 20 beautiful Christmas and Hanukkah greetings to send this year.

christmas holiday cards

Before we started donning matching sweaters and virtually plastering our faces onto dancing elves, holiday greetings were a bit more artistic.

According to , the first holiday card is usually traced back to 1843, when Henry Cole, a popular patron of the arts, was vexed over how to reply to the many letters he received once the penny post was introduced. It would be rude to not return his friends’ holiday greetings, but he’d get carpel tunnel trying to send good tidings to all of them.

In solution, Cole commissioned an artist friend to illustrate a family holiday celebration and scenes of charity for what resembled a postcard. Then he had a London printer make a thousand copies inscribed with “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You.”

Holiday cards went on to become a full-on holiday tradition by the 1880s. wrote that industrialization meant relatives were branching out across the country, and holiday cards became a way to reconnect. Card publishers offered prizes for the best designs, and newspaper columns and museum exhibits examining the artisanship of the cards sprouted up throughout the 20th-century.

In 1915, that would later become Hallmark, and changed the holiday game by introducing book-style cards — instead of just postcards — to allow senders to write longer messages. The U.S. Post Office got in on the fun a few decades later by introducing the first Christmas stamp in 1962, selling one million copies by the end of the year.

Photography and the internet have made modern card options limitless, and while today’s iterations are more likely to feature dogs wearing antlers than museum-worthy artwork, the holiday cheer remains as strong as ever.

Here are some festive picks to send warm tidings to all your loved ones.

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Kate Spade
Jolly Santa Card

$25 for 10, Kate Spade

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christmas cards
Feathered String Card

$20, Constance Kay

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Christmas cards
Dancing Bunnies Card

$6, Anthropologie

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Christmas cards
Merry Christmakkah Card

$14, Constance Kay

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Snow & Graham
Reindeers Foil Single Card

$5.50, Snow & Graham

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Mistletoe Holiday Card

$7, Paper Source

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Zebra Card

$125 for 10, Dempsey & Carroll

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Quilled Santa Christmas Card

$12, Papyrus

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Pine Branches Holiday Cards

$18.75 for 10, Kate Spade

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Reindeer Mistletoe Card

$4.50, OneCanoeTwo

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christmas card
Good Tidings We Bring Card

$4.50, Thimble Press

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Latke Love Card

$4.50, OneCanoeTwo

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hanukkah card blue snowflake
Blue Snowflake Hanukkah Card

$4, Smudge Ink

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christmas card elf snowglobe
Merry Elves Card Set

$4.50, Rifle Paper Co.

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christmas card kate spade
Season's Greetings Holiday Card Set

$16 for 10, Kate Spade

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christmas card merry little christmas
Written In Tinsel Card

$2, Paperless Post

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Hanukkah Chanukah Card

$5, Ladyfingers Letterpress

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Pen & Ink Snowflake Card

$95 for 10, Dempsey & Carroll

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Christmas Car Card

$4.50, Little Low

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merry christmas christmas card
Glittered Snowflakes And Ribbon Christmas Cards

$17 for 12, Hallmark

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