Posted by: Didapper PJ13 NOV 2012
By now, many people have started to think about how many Christmas cards to send this year and where to buy them (unless, like my well-organised wife, you acquired them months ago and have already addressed them).
This year is the 150th anniversary of the world’s first mass produced Christmas cards, created in 1862 by the London printing firm of Charles Goodall & Sons. The first cards simply read: “A Merry Christmas”, but later designs included robins, holly, mangers, snowmen and even Little Red Riding Hood.
Printed cards had first appeared a few years earlier, but only in response to specific commissions. The earliest seem to have been in 1843, when Henry Cole, a civil servant (and later the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum), ordered 1,000 hand-coloured cards. Their design depicted a happy family raising a toast, but because the image showed a young child enjoying a sip of wine it was condemned for “fostering the moral corruption of children”.
As the card industry grew, one Victorian newspaper was prompted to ask: “Why, oh why, does everyone send Christmas cards instead of real letters?” Nowadays, of course, the “real letter” has returned, although only as a smug computer-written round-robin missive stuffed in with the card.
Many recipients are annoyed by these self-congratulatory letters, but I enjoy their unintentional humour. I love the way the writers brag about their illnesses (“It was only when I took my broken wrist to A&E that my heart condition came to light”), praise the modest achievements of their children or grandchildren (“Fiona’s exam results were not as good as we had hoped, but we are constantly delighted by the warmth of her personality”) and offer comically boastful but tedious accounts of overseas excursions (“We spent two weeks in Bali with Uncle Jules and his partner Sandy, and were made most welcome in their delightful bijou home”). I can’t wait to read this year’s batch.