A Christmas card is a greeting card sent as part of the traditional celebration of Christmas in order to convey between people a range of sentiments related to the Christmas and holiday season. Christmas cards are usually exchanged during the weeks preceding Christmas Day by many people (including non-Christians) in Western society and in Asia. The traditional greeting reads “wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”. There are innumerable variations on this greeting, many cards expressing more religious sentiment, or containing a poem, prayer, Christmas song lyrics or Biblical verse; others stay away from religion with an all-inclusive “Season’s greetings”.
The first Christmas cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in London on 1 May 1843. The central picture showed three generations of a family raising a toast to the card’s recipient: on either side were scenes of charity, with food and clothing being given to the poor. Allegedly the image of the family drinking wine together proved controversial, but the idea was shrewd: Cole had helped introduce the Penny Post three years earlier. Two batches totaling 2,050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each.
Early English cards rarely showed winter or religious themes, instead favoring flowers, fairies and other fanciful designs that reminded the recipient of the approach of spring. Humorous and sentimental images of children and animals were popular, as were increasingly elaborate shapes, decorations and materials. At Christmas 1873, the lithograph firm Prang and Mayer began creating greeting cards for the popular market in England. The firm began selling the Christmas card in America in 1874, thus becoming the first printer to offer cards in America.
Many businesses, from small local businesses to multi-national enterprises send Christmas cards to the people on their customer lists, as a way to develop general goodwill, retain brand awareness and reinforce social networks. These cards are almost always discrete and secular in design, and do not attempt to sell a product, limiting themselves to mentioning the name of the business. The practice harkens back to trade cards of the 18th century, an ancestor of the modern Christmas card.
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Content courtesy of wikipedia