Monday, December 14, 2020by Reverend Dan on December 14, 2020
"Behold, I bring you good tidings of a great joy which shall be to all people."
Henry Cole traveled in the elite social circles of Victorian England and had many friends. Too many, it seems, because during Christmas of 1843, those friends were the cause of great anxiety for Cole.
The problem was all the letters he received. An old custom in England was to send Christmas letters and never was it more popular than that year when the British postal system had expanded with the introduction of the “Penny Post” which allowed the sender to send a letter or card anywhere in the country by affixing a penny stamp.
As Cole watched the letters pile up in his study, he became more and more concerned about what to do. After all, it was impolite to not answer mail. So, he had to come up with a plan.
And he did. He went to a friend who was an artist and asked him to design an idea that he had sketched out. Then he took the illustration, which showed a family at the dining table celebrating the holidays while people outside helped the poor, and he had a thousand copies made. The image was printed on a stiff piece of cardboard 5¼ x 3 ¼ and at the bottom said, “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You” and across the top it read: “TO: ____”. This allowed Cole to correspond with all his friends in a quick and efficient manner, and it gave us our very first Christmas card.
Soon the idea caught on and others began to copy the idea and send the cards out at Christmas.
Louis Prang, a Prussian immigrant with a print shop near Boston, is credited with creating the first Christmas card originating in the United States in 1875. It was very different from Cole and Horsley’s in that it didn’t even contain a Christmas or holiday image. The card was a painting of a flower, and it read “Merry Christmas.” This more artistic, subtle approach would define the first generation of American Christmas cards.
The modern Christmas card industry began in 1915, when a fledgling Kansas City-based postcard printing company started by Joyce Hall, later to be joined by his brothers Rollie and William, published its first holiday card. The Hall Brothers company soon adapted a new format for the cards—4 inches wide, 6 inches high, folded once, and inserted in an envelope. And wanting to leave their mark on the industry, the company changed its name to Hallmark.
The very first Christmas greeting came not in the form of a card but an angel which appeared before the shepherds, bringing glad tidings of a great joy. That Christmas wish is still the most poignant and meaningful of all holiday greetings today. May it always abound in our hearts and in our lives.
“Father, Thank you for the beauty of that first Christmas greeting, painted on a star lit sky across Bethlehem. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”
Each year there are approximately 20,000 “rent-a-Santa’s” across the United States. These people usually undergo training on how to maintain a jolly attitude under pressure. They also receive practical advice, such as avoiding garlic, onions, or beans for lunch.