Christmas cards of best wishes for Christmas have been sent to family and friends for hundreds of years. As a matter of fact, the Christmas card as we know it did not appear until 1843. Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, was the originator. He found the writing of dozens of hand-written letters tiresome and time-consuming. In particular, he commissioned a friend, John Horsley, a member of the Royal Academy, to design a card. This could then be reproduced for greetings to his friends,while those unused could be sold in a shop.
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The ‘Penny Post’
When the Penny Post was introduced in 1840 the custom of sending letters by mail became very popular. The Christmas cards followed, soon after its invention. By the mid-nineteenth century, new processes enabled cards to be produced at little cost. These could be sent around the world for the price of only one penny. The fashion, indeed, grew and by the 1880s millions of cards were sold with hundreds of shapes and designs. Most cards bear greetings such as ‘wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. There are hundreds of designs ont he front, bearing pictures of Santa Claus, snow scenes, Christmas trees, and many others.
Collecting Christmas cards
Collectors seek, in particular, cards produced between the 1860s and 1890s. These are easily preserved in transparent plastic sheets, as mentioned in the article ‘Orange wrappers’. Furthermore, some unusual cards can reach an asking price of many hundreds of pounds. For instance, a card signed by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor with a print of the couple on the front.
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Many charitable organizations sell Christmas cards to raise money for their cause. Among the most well-known are those sold by UNICEF.
Christmas stamps are also sold by many countries. In addition, in 2004 the German Post Office gave away twenty million free scented stickers to put on the envelopes. These gave off the scent of a fir tree, cinnamon, gingerbread, an orange and many other varieties.